How to swallow pills

Background:

Many people struggle with swallowing medications. Luckily there are some methods to help learn this skill. When you first search for tips, you may come across the Harvard Health Website. This article is a great place to start as it explains one method for swallowing tablets and one method for swallowing capsules.

The method for swallowing tablets is called the pop bottle method.

  1. Fill a water bottle with water.
  2. Put the tablet on the back of your tongue and close your lips tightly around the bottle opening.
  3. Without letting air in or out, take a drink, keeping contact between the bottle and your lips and using a sucking motion to swallow the water and pill.

This method provided a 60% benefit in swallowing.

The method for swallowing capsules is called the lean forward method.

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

If these methods don’t work, there still is hope. Researchers at the University of Calgary studied if they could teach children who had never been able to swallow how to swallow. Every single child who was able to practice, was able to swallow pills at the conclusion of the study.

So just like anything else, the secret was to practice for 2 weeks. How did they practice swallowing? Every night for 5 minutes the children practiced using candy. Starting with very, very small pieces, they slowly progressed to larger candy. First was nerds candy for a few days, then tic-tacs, and then miniature M&Ms.

Additionally, they practiced different head postures such as neutral, left, right, up, and down. Interestingly the preferred head position changed during the course of the 14 days and by the end “up” was the favored posture and “down” was only preferred in 3% of the kids.

Some additional tips are to only use a little bit of water. If you use too much water you can “lose” the pill in your mouth. Also regardless of head posture, try to get the pill on the back of the tongue to start.

For me. I prefer to tilt my head backwards with tablets that are more dense than water and I lean forward with capsules that are less dense than water.

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/two-tricks-make-easier-swallow-pills-201411137515
  2. Kaplan B, Steiger R, Pope J, et al. Successful treatment of pill-swallowing difficulties with head posture practice. Paediatr Child Health. 2010 May-Jun; 15(5): e1–e5.

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