Let's face it, swallowing pills is difficult. Some people have a specific problem with swallowing, known as dysphagia while others suffer from dry mouth, fear of choking or any other difficulty 1. It can sometimes make swallowing a simple pill seem almost impossible.
It is especially difficult for young children who may never have swallowed a pill before. The concept of swallowing something without chewing can be foreign and difficult to do.
If you are somebody who has a problem in this area, there may be hope. Understanding some of the physical issues associated with it as well as the mental aspects can help you to get beyond the problem.
In addition, we'll take a look into some new strategies for swallowing pills that may make it all easier.
Overcoming Your Fear
There is a lot that goes into swallowing, more than most people realize. The nerves have to work together in your throat, mouth, and esophagus to move food or liquid from the mouth into the digestive tract.
Very few of us take the time to think about the reflexes associated with swallowing. When the time comes that we have to swallow a pill, however, it is typically foremost on our mind. When you overthink things, they get difficult.
Understanding the 'Globus Sensation'
The 'globus sensation' is a type of tightness you may experience in your throat when trying to swallow a pill. It isn't a physical problem but rather, it is a form of stress or anxiety. Just thinking about it may actually make your throat begin to feel tight.
One thing to consider when trying to overcome this fear of swallowing is to not focus on it. Admittedly, it can be difficult to put it out of your mind but with practice, it does get easier.
In addition to trying to ignore it, using some of the strategies in this article can help you to focus your mind on getting the job done, rather than focusing on the job itself.
5 Pill Swallowing Strategies to Try
1. Drink Lots of Water
We are starting with the basics here, but it is one of the easiest ways to do it. Swallow a pill while drinking plenty of water.
Some people find that taking a big drink of water prior to putting the pill in the mouth is beneficial. Think about swallowing the pill before you actually try.
If you feel as if you can't swallow or if you begin gagging, remove the pill carefully and dry it with a paper towel. Try again in a few minutes.
2. Try a Soda Bottle
German researchers 2 began experimenting with the pop bottle method to help people swallow dense tablets. It is not a method that works well with capsules, because they weigh less than water.
To use the pop bottle method, fill a water bottle with a narrow opening full of water. Put the pill on your tongue, put the water bottle up to your mouth and close your lips around the opening.
The pressure from the narrow opening of the water bottle will force the water down your throat while you swallow. Approximately 60% of the people who tried this method found that it helped 3.
3. Lean Forward
Many people lean back to take a pill but leaning forward may actually help. Start with your shoulders back and your chin up when you put the pill in your mouth. Take a small sip of water and then quickly move your head forward while swallowing.
This method may help because it moves the pill toward the back of the throat when you tilt your head forward. It also helps to take your mind off of swallowing a pill.
88% of those who were studied found that this method improved their ability to swallow pills 3.
4. Hide It in a Teaspoon of Soft Food (Applesauce, Pudding, Etc.)
You may be able to trick your brain into swallowing a pill if you hide it in a spoonful of something that you typically swallow whole.
Of course, you would not use this method if you are taking a pill that shouldn't be taken with food. Some will lose their effectiveness if you do so.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can use this method and then give it a try.
5. Use a Straw
Some people find it easier to swallow a pill when they wash it down using a straw. Sucking the liquid up provides a reflex motion and sealing the straw off with the lips can help you to get the medication down.
There are also specialized straws specifically manufactured to make it easier to take pills.
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1. New Zealand Medical Devices Safety Authority | Helping Medicine Capsules Go Down, May 2003
2. NPR | Trouble Swallowing Pills? Try The 'Pop Bottle' Or The 'Lean Forward', November 11, 2014
3. Two Techniques to Make Swallowing Pills Easier, 2014 12:498-499