How to Swallow a Large Pill and Other Tips for Taking Pills

Do you dread taking pills? The thought of getting a new prescription from your doctor may fill you with anxiety. You aren’t alone in this, though, as one in three people have problems swallowing pills.

Maybe you’re fine with regular-sized pills, but larger ones may be the problem. If you find large pills hard to swallow, there are tricks to make it a lot easier.

So if you’re wondering how to swallow a large pill, keep reading. Don’t run the risk of getting sicker because you can’t get your pills down. Instead, try one of the tips you’ll find in this article.

Pill-Taking: An Underappreciated Skill

Taking pills is a skill that goes unnoticed unless you’re one of the unlucky people that can’t do it. Then it can be a nightmare to take simple things like prescription medications, vitamins, and supplements.

Gagging, choking, and vomiting when taking pills may cause people to forgo their medications, which could only make them sicker. Some possible causes for pill-swallowing difficulties include:

  • Dry mouth – chronic dry mouth due to lifestyle factors or a medical condition
  • Dysphagia – general difficulty swallowing caused by another health condition
  • Choking fears – anxiety may cause unintentional narrowing and tightening of the throat

Some people have difficulty with pills because of a hypersensitive gag reflex, while others have a mental block from a previous bad experience with swallowing pills. For anyone who has difficulty swallowing pills in general, swallowing large pills may seem impossible. However, there are things you can do to make it a little easier.

Ask Your Pharmacist

First, whether you have problems taking all pills or simply find large ones intimidating, have a conversation with your pharmacist. The pharmacist may not be able to change your prescription, but they can present you with options. Ask them about the following:

Different Medicine Versions

Did you know that medicines, vitamins, and supplements are sometimes made in different forms? You may not receive options for all of your pills, but your pharmacist would know if there are other pill versions available.

For example, a liquid version of the pill would solve the giant pill problem. Similarly, an effervescent tablet is much easier to take as it dissolves in water in a matter of minutes.

Dividing or Crushing Medications

You may have heard that using a pill cutter can help. After all, two normal-sized halves of a large pill are certainly easier to swallow than the whole pill at once. What’s more, crushing a tablet into powder to dissolve in liquid would cut the pill question out of the equation.

The problem with that? It may cut the efficacy of the pill. Some pills are time-released and should be taken intact. So make sure you speak with the pharmacist first before doing it.

How to Swallow a Large Pill: Tips to Make the Medicine Go Down Easier

You may not be able to get out of taking those large pills, but if you’re wondering how to swallow a large pill in a smooth and easy way, the following tips should help.

1. Wet Your Mouth

One thing that can make swallowing pills difficult is a dry mouth. Alleviate it before you try. Drink a little water first and then try swallowing the pill.

2. Lean Forward (for Capsules)

One study found that participants using this technique showed an 89% improvement over the old method of sipping water and trying to swallow a pill. To try this, follow these steps:

  • Step 1 – Place the capsule on your tongue
  • Step 2 – Sip a little water, but don’t swallow it
  • Step 3 – Lean forward and tilt your chin towards your chest
  • Step 4 – Swallow both water and capsule while your head is bent forward

Keep in mind, though, that this only works for capsules. If you need a method for tablets, check out the next tip.

3. Try the Pop Bottle Method (for Tablets)

If tablets are your nemesis, you may want to try this technique. According to a study from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, this method is 60% more successful than the standard way of washing a pill down with water.

To do this, you will need a plastic bottle. Once you’ve found it, follow the steps below:

  • Step 1 – Fill your plastic bottle with water
  • Step 2 – Place the tablet on your tongue and don’t swallow it. Seal your lips tightly around the bottle opening.
  • Step 3 –Swallow the water and pill, but don’t let air enter the bottle.

4. Desensitize Yourself

If your gag reflex is the problem, you can try desensitizing yourself and get your soft palate used to foreign objects. Start with brushing your tongue until you feel your reflex activate. Keep doing it so that your sensitivity dulls.

This may not help if you have to take a pill immediately. However, it may help prepare you for the next time.

5. Numb Yourself

If you don’t have time to desensitize your gag reflex, try numbing it instead. Use a numbing spray on the back of your throat or try a throat lozenge to numb your reflex. This may make it easier to swallow large pills.

6. Hide the Pill

Additionally, you can also try hiding the pill. The peanut butter on the spoon trick may not work with you. However, using the thick textures of soft solids like yogurt, pudding, or applesauce can make it easier to swallow.

7. Practice Makes Perfect

Sometimes all it takes is practice, especially if your swallowing problems stem from anxiety. Try practicing on very small edibles like gummy bears. Make sure that the size is comparable to your large pills, though, so you don’t choke.

It’s Time for Your Medication

To work out how to swallow a large pill, you need to assess where the problem stems from. If it’s a health condition that makes it difficult for you to swallow anything and not just large pills, your doctor may help. However, if it’s simply hypersensitivity or anxiety, trying these tips may help.

Finally, remember to speak with your pharmacist before altering your pills in any way. Crushing, splitting, or cutting pills may diminish their effectiveness, so it is important to get the “okay” first. In addition, some of the medication you’re taking may be available in the form of effervescent tablets, so make sure to ask your pharmacist about that, too.

 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/two-tricks-make-easier-swallow-pills-201411137515
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/problems-swallowing-pills
http://www.annfammed.org/content/12/6/550.full
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4226776
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6065591

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