Colonoscopy Prep Essentials for Your Comfort

This is not medical advice about colonoscopy prep. I’m writing this article to help you identify essentials to have on hand so you can feel more comfortable when prepping for a colonoscopy procedure.

That is, how to make your skin feel more comfortable during the prep. Also, how to just feel better overall during the few days before you have this potentially life-saving screening for colon cancer.

colonoscopy prep essentials jug with measuring cup
Jug of colonoscopy prep solution. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Colonoscopy prep essentials for comfort

I’m writing this article after coming off of my second colonoscopy but my third colonoscopy prep. Wait, you’re saying, how could you have gone through three preps and only two procedures? 

Well, the prep for my second colonoscopy failed and the doctor canceled it. So, two months later, when I rescheduled the procedure, I went through the whole thing again.

And I learned a bunch about staying comfortable yet again. Finally, I’ll explain about my failed colonoscopy prep and how you can avoid that happening to you.

Staying warm

I’m a woman of a certain age who is always hot. It’s ridiculous since I’d spent most of my life being cold. However, thanks to menopause, I have to sleep in tank tops, with my hair in a pony tail and no socks on my feet.

Now, for whatever reason, during colonoscopy prep, I can’t get warm. Maybe it’s the process of going to the bathroom constantly. 

Or, it could be that I’d been drinking cold prep throughout the day. Either way, I had to revert to some of my old ways of staying warm.

One, when I wasn’t on the toilet, I was on the couch, underneath a fuzzy blanket. The Primalush blanket from Target is my favorite.

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Two, I kept my feet covered. Since sliding down my wood stairs in stocking feet and banging up my back pretty badly, I never wear regular socks around the house anymore. Instead, I kept my Uggs suede slippers on.

Staying hydrated

Even though I had to drink six liters of colonoscopy prep over a 24-hour period, my doctor recommended I drink other fluids to stay hydrated. So, I stocked up on Vitamin Water (I’m not a big Gatorade fan).

In the future, when doing my colonoscopy prep, I may switch to Liquid IV, which I think is better than Nuun.

Also, I couldn’t stomach the idea of drinking coffee during prep. So I had Coca-Cola on hand. You know, soda–not pop. This New Yorker will always call it soda.

What I wish I’d also stocked up on was tea and soup broth. Because of the aforementioned issue of being cold all the time, I would have loved a hot beverage. And since coffee was out of the question, I should have thought about this alternative.

Unscented wipes and soft toilet paper

Until you’ve gone through a colonoscopy prep, you’ll have no idea how essential really soft toilet paper and unscented, flushable wipes are. Because you will be going to the bathroom a lot.

Pro tip: don’t wipe so much as “pat” your back end after going to the bathroom. The more you wipe, the more irritated your butt will become.

Also, that’s a reason to stick with unscented wipes and toilet paper. Even if fragrance doesn’t normally bother your skin, trust me: it will after a few hours of colonoscopy prep.

Underwear pads

Regardless of your gender or if you’ve ever had to use period pads, you’re going to want to buy some. Why?

Because–and I’m sorry if this is gross–it is possible that your butt will leak during prep. I’ve found that putting menstrual pads in my underwear was helpful to capture this leakage (gross, I know).

Also, never trust a fart. Because during colonoscopy prep, anything that feels like gas will be technicolor, if you know what I mean.

You could also try incontinence pads.

Pads might decrease the laundry you do

You may find the idea of putting pads in your underwear unpleasant. However, if you don’t have access to laundry in your home, you’re going to be changing your underwear frequently without pads.

That means a lot of laundry. And that’s why I think pads are essential.

And if you don’t have laundry in your apartment unit or at your house, you’ll have a bunch to bring to the laundromat after your colonoscopy prep and procedure are over. Is that really how you want to spend your recovery time?

Lotion for your hands and cream for your butt

If you’re good about washing your hands after using the bathroom–as you should be–then prepare to be washing your hands a lot. In no time, though, your skin is going to be dry, especially if you’re prepping in the winter when the humidity is low.

I prepped in the summer, when it was hot and humid. Even so, my hands dried out. I’m so glad that I already keep a bottle of Lubriderm Advanced Therapy lotion above my kitchen sink.

Even if it’s been years since you’ve had to change a baby’s diapers, you should get some diaper cream or another kind of butt salve. Even straight petroleum jelly might be good enough.

Trust me: you’re going to need it.

Another option is to use hemorrhoid cream, whether you have hemorrhoids or not. If you do, they will definitely be acting up by the end of your prep time.

I know that there are now hemorrhoid wipes. However, I haven’t tried them so cannot say if they’re better (or worse) than other kinds of wipes.

Pull-on pants are essential during colonoscopy prep

I spent my entire colonoscopy prep time in my favorite drawstring jogger pants from Nordstrom. They’re pull-on, so easy to shed in the bathroom.

That’s something you want–easy-off pants–because once the prep kicks in, you will have to go to the bathroom urgently. So, sweats, pull-on pants or joggers are essential for your prep “fashion.”

Don’t bother with jeans or anything with a zipper. That’s asking for a crappy outcome–pun intended.

Why my previous colonoscopy prep failed

I mentioned at the top of this piece that I just finished a third colonoscopy prep, but that I’ve only had two colonoscopies. That’s because when I was supposed to get the procedure a few months ago, my gastro doc had me do a “regular” prep schedule.

That is, you start the prep the night before your procedure. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough time for me. Hours before my procedure, I was nowhere near a clear colon so we had to cancel my appointment.

You see, I have an issue with pooping. OK, I’ll be blunt–I’m often constipated.

It’s one of the reasons that I ended up at an urogynecologist who referred me to pelvic floor therapy. Turns out, pelvic floor issues can affect how well (or poorly) you poop.

So, to avoid another failed colonoscopy prep, my doctor told me it was imperative that I do something called an extended prep. Basically, I had to spend the days before my procedure getting ready.

For example, I started a low-residue diet five days ahead of time. We’re talking mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and puffed rice cereal.

After that, three days before the procedure, I stopped solid food and went on a clear fluid diet. Clear fluid includes colas, coffee (no milk) and juice and Jell-O–but not red or purple. That can stain your colon and make it hard for doctors to see polyps.

Then, the morning before my procedure, I started the prep and continued with the clear liquids diet. My extended prep meant I ended up doing an extra dose of the colonoscopy prep–six liters instead of four–to ensure I was fully cleaned out for my procedure the next day. And I was.

Final thoughts on colonoscopy prep essentials

By the day after my procedure, I had fully recovered from the prep. Unfortunately, the skin on my rear end hadn’t. If only I’d stocked up on that butt cream.

Finally, I got a clean bill of health. No polyps, excellent prep and, as my friends have said, the colonoscopy golden ticket–10 years until my next procedure, unless I develop symptoms.