What to Do If You Can't Swallow Your Pills?

7 May 2019
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Do you have trouble swallowing your prescription pills? If so, you're not alone. Research shows that a whopping 40% of adults find it difficult to swallow a pill despite having no medical condition affecting their ability to swallow other substances.

Generally, the issue isn't physical at all, but mental. From a young age, you're taught that swallowing unchewed food can cause you to choke. Trying to swallow an unchewable pill goes against that ingrained knowledge, which can make your oesophagus tighten instinctively during the process. What's worse is that the more trouble you have swallowing pills, the more your mind becomes resistant to the process.

Of course, you can't stop your much-needed medication just because of your difficulty with pills. Thankfully, there are many tips and tricks that can help make taking your medicine easier. Here are three of the best ones to try.

Take the Pill With Applesauce

One of the strangest things about the common difficulty in taking pills is that they're relatively small compared to what usually passes through your oesophagus. Think about your last meal—the chewed-up food you swallowed went down in larger quantities than the tiny pills you need to take every day. One of the reasons why food is so much easier to swallow is that its texture. Once chewed, it's wet and slippery, unlike the dry texture of a tablet. As such, making your pill more slippery can make it much easier to swallow.

One great way of helping your pill slide down your oesophagus is to hide it in a spoonful of applesauce. The gelatinous pectin in applesauce makes it very slippery, so it's almost impossible to get stuck in your throat. Just make sure you buy smooth applesauce, not the kind with small apple pieces in it. Custard, yogurt, pudding, and pureed fruit are other possible alternatives.

Practice Different Head Positions

One study on swallowing pills found that practice makes perfect. During this research project, children were asked to practice their swallowing technique over a period of 14 days with their heads positioned in five different ways: centred, up, down, left or right. Over this time, every child found a favourite head position and overcame their difficulty swallowing.

Of course, you can't practice this with your medication unless you need to take it five times a day. Instead, practice it with a small, hard candy around the same size as your pills.

Get Your Medication Compounded

If you're still having trouble taking pills, the best solution is to switch to a different form of medicine entirely. Many medications now come in multiple forms—pills and a liquid suspension, for example. However, there are many more that pharmacies only stock in pill form. That's where a pharmacy compounding service comes in.

Compounding pharmacies mix medications from scratch, so they can create your dosage in any form that suits you. Compounding can turn a hard-to-swallow pill into a tasty liquid, chewable pill or even a lolly. These pharmacies can also create tailored dosages so you don't have to take your medication so often. All in all, compounding can alleviate a lot of the nuisances of daily medicine dosing.