Maybe you haven’t given swallowing a pill a second thought since you were a child, but now, suddenly, they aren’t going down nearly as easily. Or perhaps you’ve hated taking pills your entire life. Either way, you’re not alone. According to a study out of Germany, one out of three adults struggle to swallow pills.
It may not be something you have to just live with, though. These simple tricks could be all you need to make the medicine down.
Start with the pill swallowing basics
Before we get into special techniques, let’s make sure your pill swallowing fundamentals are solid.
Many people have never been taught how to take a pill properly in the first place, so it’s no wonder that so many folks have trouble.
- Always take pills standing or sitting up. Trying to take them lying down almost guarantees it won’t go down.
- Never use warm water. Rinsing down a pill with warm water can cause it to start dissolving while it’s still in your mouth and throat, making it harder, not easier, to swallow.
- Try seltzer. Many people find it easier to get pills down with sparkling water or club soda, rather than regular water.
- Take a sip first. A dry mouth and throat makes anything harder to swallow, so wet your whistle before you pop a pill.
Pill popping tricks make the medicine go down
If your fundamentals are solid and you still can’t choke down a pill, one of these pill swallowing tricks might be the answer.
The Pop Bottle:
Get a bottle of water, not a glass. Put the pill on your tongue. Close your lips around the neck of the water bottle. Take a drink, sucking water through the bottle, not letting any air between your mouth and the plastic. In studies, more than 60 percent of people had more success swallowing pills this way than by just drinking from a glass.
The Forward Lean:
The Forward Lean works best with capsules that are lighter than large, heavy pills. Put the capsule on your tongue and take a mouthful of water. Don’t swallow yet, though. Tilt your head forward. Now swallow. The pill will float on the water toward the back of your throat, making it easier to get down. This simple trick made pill swallowing easier for a full 89 percent of people who tried it.
Try adding your pill to a soft food that you don’t have to chew. Think applesauce or peanut butter. (Yogurt and pudding work well too, but since dairy can interact with some meds check with your pharmacist first.) Simply take a spoonful of the food, put the pill on top and swallow the whole thing down.
If you’re still having trouble don’t give up. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s okay to split, crush or open the pill.
In most cases splitting a solid pill into two smaller pieces to swallow one after the other is fine, and a pill cutter makes it easy to do if your doc says it’s okay. If the pill isn’t a time release medication your pharmacist may give you the okay to crush it and take it in some applesauce.
For capsules or gel caps, opening them and drinking them instead of trying to swallow the whole pill might be allowed. Just be sure to never open, crush or chew a pill without clearing it with your doctor or pharmacist first.
Also, be sure to ask whether smaller sized pills are available. Doctors seldom think about the size of a pill when dashing off a prescription, but your pharmacist may know of a smaller version or a liquid option, so don’t be shy about asking.