A Hard Pill to Swallow - Tips for Taking Medication


Have you ever been prescribed a medication to help your condition, gone to the pharmacy to pick it up, then opened the bottle only to see a pill that seemed so large you wondered how you would ever be able to swallow it? Or, maybe the pill wasn't that big but for some reason seemed to anchor on your tongue and would not go down!

If this sounds familiar you are not alone. Many people who have difficulty swallowing pills and to cope, have developed interesting methods to get the job done.

One of the best is Sally's method; Sally is a patient I met a few years ago. It's a goodthing she is limber because Sally contorts her head in lots of positions while arching her back, rubbing her neck, taking really deep breathes and humming the Julie Andrews song "just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicines go down."  Kind of interesting, to say the least.

Tips to Help "The Medicine Go Down"

While that may help Sally and provide some exercise at the same time, here are some other suggestions that may be a little easier to, shall I say, swallow:

1. Dry throat alert - drink some water before you take that medication because pills or capsules often stick to our tongue or back of the throat due to dry mouth. This happens a lot for those who take their medications first thing in the morning, especially if they "mouth breath" throughout the night. The linings of their mouths are often desert dry and could use a little moisture to help the pills "slide" down.

2. Don't "throw your head back" in an attempt to swallow the pill - besides risking whiplash, this movement may actually make it harder to swallow a pill because it stretches the esophagus and narrows the opening, thus making it harder for pills to pass through.

3. Drink from a straw after the pill or capsule is in your mouth. The sucking action of drinking in this way may help to smooth the medications ride to its destination.

4. Chew some food such as a small piece of bread or rice and before swallowing, place the pill or capsule on your tongue. Add a sip of water and then swallow. This method should not be used if the medication needs to be taken on an empty stomach.

5. Put the pills further back on your tongue, then drink a thicker liquid such as juice or milk.

6. Improvise - you may be able to open the capsules and mix with applesauce or pudding, or split the medication in half if the pill is "scored" for this purpose. However, before you try any of these methods, it is very important to check with your pharmacist since many pills have special coatings or are designed to release the medication over a longer period of time.  In these instances, cutting the pills or opening the capsules would greatly decrease their effectiveness.

If none of the above measures work, please ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are liquids, melting tablets for under the tongue or chewable alternatives. After all, no medication will work if you cannot get it into your system.

Dr. Rob believes in preventative and integrative approaches to medicine. He specializes in family medicine as well as children's health and wellness.








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