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Tips To Help Swallow Medications


Megan Fleischman, Aspirus Pharmacy Resident

Pills come in many different sizes and textures, making some more difficult to take than others.


Trouble swallowing tablets or capsules, also known as pill dysphagia, is a common problem that affects many children and adults.


“Swallowing something without chewing it can feel unnatural and people may struggle with the fear of choking, gaging or asphyxiating,” says Megan Fleischman, an Aspirus Pharmacy Resident.


People who may be more likely to struggle with swallowing pills are children, older adults, and those with certain medical conditions.


“Children’s mouths are much smaller, making the pills feel a lot bigger. They also lack the practice that adults have. Older adults who struggle with dry mouth or have other medical conditions such as a history of a stroke or Parkinson’s disease are also more likely to struggle with pill dysphagia,” says Fleischman.


There are two suggested techniques that can help people improve their ability to swallow medication: The pop-bottle method and the lean forward method.


For the pop-bottle method:

  1. Fill a plastic water or soda bottle with water.
  2. Put the tablet on your tongue and close your lips tightly around the bottle opening.
  3. Take a drink, keeping contact between the bottle and your lips and using a sucking motion to swallow the water and pill. Don’t let air get into the bottle.


For lean forward method:

  1. Put the capsule on your tongue.
  2. Take a sip of water, but don’t swallow.
  3. Tilt your chin towards your chest.
  4. Swallow the capsule and water while your head is bent.


If you’re still struggling, contact your provider or pharmacist. They may be able to offer alternative ways and helpful tips for taking certain medications such as:


  • Putting the pill in apple sauce or pudding. The texture can make it easier to swallow a pill whole.
  • Grind a pill into a powder and add it to applesauce or pudding.
  • Cut a pill with a pill splitter and swallow the smaller pieces one by one.

It is important to consult your pharmacist before trying alternative methods. Some medications are not designed for these methods and could alter the effects of the medication.


“One of the things pharmacists are most concerned about when it comes to alternative pill taking methods is dose dumping,” says Fleischman. “Dose dumping is when your body absorbs too much medication too quickly. This could result in increased side effects or a fatal overdose. Conversely, alternative pill taking methods can also cause underdosing, rendering the treatment ineffective.”


Talk with your provider or pharmacist if you have difficulty swallowing medications Find an Aspirus pharmacy near you:



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