So You’ve Been Prescribed A Pill The Size of A Nickel: How to Swallow Pills

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Pills can be tough to swallow sometimes. We've put together some tips to make it easier to take your pills.

Struggling to swallow pills isn’t uncommon. People of all ages experience difficulties when swallowing medication, especially if the pills they’ve been prescribed are large or unpleasant in taste. Dry mouth, fear of choking, and physical limitations further exacerbate this issue.

Regardless of these challenges, taking medication isn’t optional for many of us—we have to figure out a way to push through. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can try as you attempt to swallow pills.

If you’re struggling, give these methods a shot the next time you take your medication:

Lean Forward

In a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, 90 percent of participants found success with the “lean forward approach” to swallowing pills.

To start, place the capsule on your tongue, take a medium sip of water, and place your chin towards your chest as you swallow.

Use A Pop Bottle

Also developed by German researchers, the “pop bottle approach” helped 60 percent of people in the study to swallow large pills.

To try it, grab a full bottle of water with a narrow opening. Place the pill on your tongue, close your lips around the bottle opening, and swallow water without allowing air to come through.

Start With Sprinkles

This method works especially well for priming young children to take medication, but is optional for adults who struggle to swallow pills, too. Once your child is old enough to eat small candy without choking (usually around age 4, but ask your pediatrician to be sure), you can give it a try.

Make sure the child is sitting straight up. Place a sprinkle on their tongue and encourage them to take a sip of water. Alternatively, once the sprinkle is in their mouth, they can drink with a straw, too.

Buy A Pill Swallowing Cup

Many pharmacies offer “pill-swallowing cups” to help pills go down smoothly. Most of the cups have a tube-like extension to assist the natural swallowing reflex and prevent pills from getting caught in the throat.

“What if the pill got stuck on its way down?”

Having a pill caught in your throat can be a potentially dangerous scenario. Not only is it an obvious choking hazard, but a pill that's left to dissolve in your throat can burn your esophagus lining.

First, remain calm. If you’re able to breathe, try taking sips of water or small bites of food to dislodge or wash down the pill. Forceful coughing may also help.

If you feel the airway is completely blocked, however, dial 911 and perform the self-Heimlich maneuver (if you’re alone). If someone is with you, or if you’re assisting someone else who is choking on a pill, make sure 911 is called and the Heimlich maneuver is performed.

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The contents of the above article are for informational and educational purposes only. The article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified clinician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or its treatment and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of information published by us.