5 Tips on Swallowing Pills for Adults Who Know the Struggle

woman holding half full glass and white medicine pill

Whether you take prescription medications or need help from an occasional allergy pill, finding relief seems impossible when swallowing pills is a challenge. You don’t need to deal with watery eyes and your gag reflex forever. Try these tips to make swallowing pills so much easier. 

1. Tip Your Head Back

Consider how you held your head when you last tried to swallow a pill or tablet. If you tip your head back, it opens your larynx. The larynx is the highest part of your throat above your voice box, but it can press back into your gullet if your muscles contract. Tipping your head back as you swallow may push your larynx away from your gullet and make it easier to wash the pill down with water.

2. Lean Your Chin Forward

Touching your chin to your chest while swallowing could also help. As you lean forward, you’ll force your tongue to the roof of your mouth and tip everything around it down your throat. It’s worth a try, although it may not be best for those taking large pills. Factor the size of your medication and its choking hazard potential before trying this method.

3. Swap Glasses for Water Bottles

Your body’s initial reaction to swallowing pills might be to close your mouth and lift your tongue. It makes swallowing more challenging, but switching from a glass of water to a bottle could improve your experience.

Cover the bottle’s opening with your entire mouth to let more liquid in. Fill your mouth completely so the medication floats off your tongue. Swallowing might be much easier once you don’t feel the pill or tablet on your tongue.

If there isn’t a beverage container or head position that helps you swallow, it might be time to talk with your doctor. Research shows that 18 million people have swallowing disorders in the U.S., so it’s not an uncommon challenge. Your doctor could ask about related symptoms to identify if you have an undiagnosed condition requiring a different solution.

4. Consider Crushing Your Pills

Whether you’re hosting your friends with a backyard meal or out on a date, you can always sneak away to crush medication if you’ve received approval from your doctor. You can also ask your pharmacist if your prescription is safe to crush.

Some medications have timed-release mechanisms that need to begin as a whole unit once it reaches your stomach. Other prescriptions may have coated exteriors protecting what’s inside because the contents easily dissolve in stomach acid before the body absorbs them.

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There are alternatives besides crushing pills. Your pharmacist or doctor could recommend the same prescription in a powder or liquid form. It depends on the medication type and your pharmacy’s availability.

5. Swallow With Food

The feel of a pill in your mouth could trigger your gag reflex. If that’s the case, make it disappear into food. Choose something solid and delicious, like a mouthful of homemade McGriddles or mac and cheese. 

When you’re done chewing and ready to swallow, put the pill in your mouth, work it into the chewed food with your tongue and swallow. You’ll quickly disguise the medication’s bulkiness in thick food compared to thin food like applesauce or mashed banana.

Conquer Your Medication Routine

Swallowing pills shouldn’t make your life more difficult. Talk with your doctor about trying these ideas to make your medication routine easier. Whether you switch medication forms, swallow in a specific head position or swallow your pills with chewed food, you can overcome your gag reflex by trying something new.

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