allergy to polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, ethylene & butylene glycols

Allergy to PEG & GoLytely Colonoscopy Prep: A Dangerous Combination

There are Alternatives

If you have an allergy to polyethylene glycol, prep for a colonoscopy could be very dangerous. Many of the newer prep kits for pre-colonoscopy are made almost entirely of polyethylene glycol. Ask your doctor for the names of bowel prep kits he or she recommends ahead of time. Look up the ingredients – active and inactive ingredients – and make sure you find one that doesn’t contain PEG. There are preps that use magnesium citrate rather than PEG, but check the label for PEG in the inactive ingredients just in case.

Also, the lubricant used during the procedure will often have PEG or PG as an inactive ingredient. Make sure you talk to the doctor and nurses and tell them you need their help with an inactive ingredient. You can bring your own non-PEG lubricant and tell them that it is the only safe one to use.

Even better – make an appointment with the doctor and the hospital a week ahead, show them the lubricant you’ll be bringing the day of the colonoscopy and ask them for their help with your allergy. If they can’t promise that they will keep you safe from PEG, find another doctor.

Don’t put off important lab tests because you dread the frustrating process of explaining your allergies AGAIN. There are ways to mitigate risk when you have a glycol allergy, and there are medical caregivers who will help if you can find them. 

Glycol Allergies & Colonoscopy:

from American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology:
Polyethylene Glycol Allergy and Colonoscopy


6 Comments on “Allergy to PEG & GoLytely Colonoscopy Prep: A Dangerous Combination”

  1. Kim berghaus

    Submitted on 2014/05/31 at 11:59 am | In reply to ChickenLittleInk.

    Thank you for your quick response. This patient & I were able to find a topical Benadryl spray that may work. It is Equate Anti-itch spray. We reviewed the inactive ingredients together & believe this will work for her.

    Submitted on 2014/05/31 at 11:18 am | In reply to Kim berghaus.

    Unfortunately not. The drug and cosmetic companies are free to change their formulations at any time and the only thing required to stay the same is the “active” ingredient. The only solution at this time is to read every label, which can be difficult at times, because there are so many names for PEG.

    Prescription medications are not required to label the inactives, so you have to find the product insert from that particular product and check it. I have to check the insert from every batch of every medication I take, generic or brand name. Most of the newer prep solutions for colonscopy are mostly PEG, but the magnesium citrate that comes in a pop bottle usually doesn’t contain PEG. I have to say “usually,” because again, products change all the time and manufacturers think of these chemicals as inert and harmless.

    That said, there are things that don’t need PEG to work, like some thyroid medications, some shampoos and soaps by some companies have a policy that they don’t use PEG, PPG, PG or any other glycol compounds, so you can be somewhat less vigilant if you’re not prone to hives. Compound pharmacies can be very helpful, but you still need to check any “base” products for PEG. I think the new formulation of VersaBase uses PEG as a thickener.

    I check everything that goes in or on my body because I have found PEG in some very surprising places – even ethylene and butylene glycol in deodorants that are advertised and “propylene glycol-free.”
    If your patient just reacts to PEG at this point and not any of the other glycols, there are more choices, but it’s really all about the labels. There is a database you can look up chemical names and see if it’s another name for PEG here.

    Bless you for caring enough to find out. We need people like you!
    Kim berghaus

    Submitted on 2014/05/31 at 10:49 am

    I’m an NP that recently encountered a patient with a PEG allergies. Do you have a list of products that do not contain PEG?


  2. Carlton

    I experienced severe hives and itching after using a colonoscopy prep. I had drank about 1/4 the dose when the allergic reaction became apparent. I had previously developed a chemical sensitivity to PEG-2000 when I worked with it for years as a formulation chemist at a small manufacturer. That reaction was due to inhalation and resulted in anaphylactic shock twice. Often PEG-3350 is now used with sulfates for col prep. Because I tested pos with Cologuard test I will have a colonoscopy with Suprep which just has sulfates. I will need to remind the gastroenterologist not to use a lubricant that has PEGs.

    Carlton Nelson


    • Hi Carlton,
      Sorry for taking so long to respond! I’ve been having some trouble with wordpress approval request emails going to spam.

      Your expertise as a chemist will help you, I think, because you probably know how to find out when an ingredient has a similar molecular structure to another. I have often wondered if there’s a relationship between glycerin and glycols, or glycine, and there’s no way I know of to find that info out, short of going back to school and taking an advanced chemistry class. I am very grateful for the chem classes I did take, because they have helped me understand some of the naming conventions, but when it gets down to understanding exactly what part of a chemical I’m reacting to. Is it the C2? The H6? or the combination of the whole thing?
      If I react to the C2H6O2 and
      C3H8O2, does that mean I should also avoid propanoic acid, C3H6O2 or prop-2-enoic acid, C3H4O2 ? Or is it the Carbon rather than the Hydrogen causing the problem?
      Because we’re in somewhat uncharted territory, we’re all doing the best we can to keep ourselves safe.
      Welcome aboard, Carlton. I hope you will share your wisdom as you are able.


  3. Wendi Vieira

    Dear Sir… I am here sitting. It knowing if there is any alternative for me with regards to a bowel prep… an alternative all natural prep… I have severe allergies to so so many things.. even to the wire on my. Races… I am 56 years old and. Art the brca 2 also… my father died of colon cancer at 52 and I am in a no win situation with being allergic to Peg, Mag-Citrate and a host of things… I’m finding the Gastro doctor is getting frustrated frustrated with me because nothing seems to be working in finding a prep to get be thru the. Oliscopy.. please I need help to find an alternative prep and or a doctor that has the knowledge to help me.. I live in the Eugene Iregon area and please ask if you have any information that could be beneficial for my cause….541-232-9790, we******@ao*.com, thank you, Wendi Vieira


    • Hi Wendi,
      You might try having a colonic, if you can’t use Mag Citrate. There are places you can get one in Eugene. Look up “Colonic Irrigation” or “Colon Hydrotherapy” in Eugene, Oregon. Talk to one of the hydrotherapist and explain your situation, and see if they can help you. After talking with the hydrotherapist, talk to your doc about what the hydrotherapist said, and see if that will suffice.
      Please report back – there are some of us who may need to go the same route due to allergies – if it works.
      Best of luck.