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Swallowing Tips

Swallowing Pills

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If swallowing pills is difficult, try the following tips:

  • Sit upright or stand when taking a pill.
    • Do not throw your head back when taking pills. (It can increase the risk of choking).
    • Consider tucking in your chin by lowering it slightly toward your chest.
    • Do not throw your head back when taking pills. (It can increase the risk of choking).
  • Swallow one pill at a time.
  • Take smaller pills if possible. If that doesn't work, consider trying larger pills.
  • Crush a pill and mix it with a substance to ease its movement such as apple sauce. (Check with your doctor or pharmacist before crushing a pill to find out if crushing is okay. Some pills lose their effectiveness if crushed.)
  • Moisten the mouth to help the pill go down more easily. For instance, take a sip of water just before taking a pill. 
    • If you take a few sips of liquid with or after each pill you will help prevent it from getting stuck in your asophagus.
    • Some people find carbonated drinks more effective than water in helping a pill go down. 
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medication can be taken in another form that is easier to swallow. For example, a liquid, a patch or through a needle. If they don't know about these alternatives, contact a compounder.
  • Try "effortful swallowing." This means consciously making each swallow more forceful than normal.
  • If the drug tastes bad:
    • You can numb your taste buds by sucking on some thing cold such as ice chips.
    • Conceal the unpleasant taste by putting pills into empty medicine capsules (available at drug stores and health food stores).
  • Review your list of medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Some drugs interfere with saliva and swallowing and may be the cause of the problem. If so, perhaps alternatives are available.

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