A survey revealed 40 percent of people have trouble swallowing pills. Instead of resorting to crushing or chewing tablets, learn possible reasons for your swallowing difficulty. Then discover clever strategies to get pills down or alternative prescription forms that bypass your mouth.
Determine Your Cause
Gag reflex. Swallowing a solid substance like a pill without chewing feels unnatural. So it may trigger your involuntary gag reflex, which protects you from prevent choking on a foreign object.
Anxiety. Fear of choking, discomfort or bad-tasting medicine can tense up your throat.
Past event. Have you ever choked on food? Did a pill stuck in your throat cause irritation?
Medical conditions. Your doctor can rule out medical conditions causing your dysphagia, or swallowing trouble. These include motility disorder, strictures, reflux, ulcerations, tumors, esophagitis or spasms.
Try These Swallowing Tips
Gag reflex suppression. Before taking a pill, breathe deeply to relax your neck and throat muscles. Or hold an ice cube or ice pop in your mouth to numb your throat and calm your gag reflex.
Mental attitude. Don’t let fear tighten your throat. Have a positive mindset you’ll succeed. Disassociate a former traumatic experience from taking today’s pill.
Practice foods. Swallow mini candies or small breath mints without chewing.
Pill disguises. Hide a tablet in food (such as mashed potatoes, applesauce, yogurt, pudding or ice cream) and consume both together. You can also eat crunchy food (crackers or cookies), and place a pill in the middle of the chewed food and swallow normally.
Liquids. Drink water to moisten your mouth. While swallowing, expand your throat. Then add the pill. Drinking prune juice first can help make your throat slick. Then swallow your pill with another big gulp. Maybe sip a cold, carbonated beverage (sparkling water or lemon-lime soda) from the bottle when swallowing a pill.
Special sprays. Flavored lubricating and dry-mouth moisturizing sprays prevent pills from sticking to your tongue and the roof of your mouth. They help pills slide down your throat and eliminate any bitter medicinal aftertaste. You can try spraying your mouth or gargling with an over-the-counter sore-throat anesthetic before swallowing your pill.
Pill placement techniques. Fill your mouth with water, add a pill and swallow. Try placing a pill on the back of your tongue, drinking water, tilting your chin down toward your chest and swallowing. You can also try putting the pill on the tip of your tongue, drink water and tilt your head back to swallow.
Special cup. Fill a pill-swallowing cup halfway with water, place the lid on the cup and drop the pill in the spout. Insert the angled mouthpiece in your mouth, tilt your head back slightly and down the water and pill together.
Remember toconsult your doctor or pharmacist before using foods, beverages and sprays as pill-swallowing helpers to be sure they won’t adversely interact with your medicine.
Avoid Pill Crushing and Chewing Dangers
Many pills require swallowing in their whole form to dissolve in your stomach or other organs. Crushing or chewing tablets breaks the capsules and speeds up drug dispersal, which could lead to excess concentrations in tissues. If you tamper with sustained-, extended-, timed-, controlled- and continuous-release pills, you may dispense too much medicine at once. An enteric-coating prevents medication release until the pill reaches your small intestine. Disrupting this protective layer can cause stomach irritation, or stomach acid may inactivate your medication. Crushing, chewing and splitting pills may also affect your taste buds and tooth enamel. Don’t cut unscored tablets. If pills are too big, ask your doctor to prescribe two smaller ones that equal your full dosage. Always take medications as directed. Altering pill form can significantly change your medicine’s release, safety and effectiveness, and cause potentially harmful side effects.
Request Alternative Medication Forms
Liquid and powder suspension. Your pharmacy may be able to provide your prescription in liquid form. For some mixtures, you may need to mix a powder with water before taking it. Examples: Zegerid for ulcers and GERD, Welcholfor cholesterol.
Chews. Request tablets that are chewable by design. Examples: Lamictal for seizures, Singulair for asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Transdermal patches. Each medicated adhesive patch delivers a specific dose through your skin and into your bloodstream. Examples: clonidine for high blood pressure, Estraderm for estrogen replacement therapy.
Nasal sprays. This medication form isn’t just for allergies. Metered sprays provide rapid relief for other medical conditions by entering your bloodstream quickly. Examples: Zomig for migraines, Astelin for central diabetes insipidus.
Injections. Your doctor, his staff or you may inject a medication into your arm. Some liquid solutions require intravenous administration. An IV drip bag will dispense medicine into your blood stream through a needle injected into a vein. In-office treatment time and repeat intervals vary by prescriptions. Examples: Cyanocobalamin IM for vitamin B deficiency, Ibandronate IV drip for osteoporosis.
Suppositories. Rectal and vaginal suppositories melt or dissolve, passing quickly into your bloodstream. Examples: mesalamines for ulcerative colitis and hydrocortisone/zinc sulfate for hemorrhoids.
Take Your Medicine
Above all, the important thing is to take your medication as prescribed. Missing doses because you can’t swallow your pills can cause serious health issues. Experiment with these options until you find the way that works for you.