If you have trouble swallowing pills, especially large ones, the following suggestions may help you swallow pills easier. Try different techniques to see what works for you to make swallowing the pills you need easier.
- Before you begin, take a deep breath and exhale. This may help you relax and possibly help inhibit your gag reflex.
- Take a swallow of water before you put the pill in your mouth, especially if you have a dry mouth.
- Put the pill as far back on your tongue as possible, and swallow with another sip. Using a thicker fluid, like milk, may also help.
- Don't throw your head back when swallowing; this stretches the esophagus and makes it harder to swallow. You might even try tilting your head forward toward your chest when you swallow.
- Another option to swallow pills easier: drink from a plastic water bottle (with the standard narrow opening). By keeping your lips on the bottle as you drink, you’ll set up a sucking action that makes the pill go down more easily. But don’t drink soda, since carbonation makes it harder to swallow quickly.
If you still have trouble swallowing pills...
- Crush pills or open capsules and mix into applesauce, chocolate pudding or other foods that go down easily. But first ask your pharmacist if it's okay to do this, since some pills and capsules, including time-release and enteric-coated ones, should not be altered.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are easier-to-swallow versions (capsule, coated tablet or gel cap) of your medicine. There may be liquid, powder, chewable, even suppository alternatives. Calcium, for instance, comes in chewable and liquid forms.
Source: Originally published in The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (November 2011)