We’re going to share with you how many people have learned how to swallow pills!
Once finished, you will easily be able to use one or more of these strategies to swallow pills. You will also be able to help a loved one learn too.
This article provides a comprehensive list of successful tips and tricks, offers a newly proven solution (The Pill Skills Method), and also provides the answers to many frequently asked questions about pill swallowing.
Tips & Tricks
#1- The Pop Bottle Method
The pop bottle method can help people swallow tablet forms of medication. Start by placing the pill on your tongue. Then place your lips around a flexible pop or water bottle. Once lips are secure, take a gulp of water with a sucking motion while tilting your head backwards.
The pop bottle method reportedly improved the swallowing of tablets for participants by nearly 60%. This method has shown improvement in people with and without pill swallowing difficulties. The suction motion helps prevent the gagging, choking, and vomiting sensation that some may feel when swallowing pills.
#2 - The Lean Forward Method
The lean forward method can help people swallow capsule forms of medication. Start by placing the capsule on your tongue. Take an average sip of water, but do not swallow it. Tilt your head downward, bringing your chin towards your chest. Swallow the capsule and water as your head is tilted forward.
The lean forward method was proven highly effective with over 88% of participants reporting improved pill swallowing of capsules. This method is proven to work as capsules are lightweight, allowing them to float on the water towards your throat as you lean forward. The method was even used and proven successful for people with extreme swallowing difficulties.
#3 - Keep Drinking
While this hint may seem simple, it is an important one. Some have a tendency to take a sip of water and hold it in their mouth before swallowing. This can cause them to overthink, creating a mental barrier, ultimately preventing the pill from being swallowed.
Instead, place the pill in your mouth. Then keep drinking and swallowing until the pill goes down your throat. This mimics how liquid is normally swallowed, allowing the pill to go down naturally.
#4 - Duck Shake
Ducks swallow easily by tilting their head back and shaking it side to side. This helps get the food to the back of their throat, allowing them to swallow it in one gulp.
The next time you struggle swallowing a pill, try swallowing it like a duck. Tilt your head back and lightly shake it side to side.
#5 - Pill Placement
Pill placement may be important if you notice the pill moving to different parts of your mouth when swallowing. For some the pill gets stuck in their cheeks, rather than flowing to the back of their mouth. Naturally it makes sense to move the pill to the back of your tongue, in hopes that the pill goes down easier. Try this first. However, if you notice that you have a strong gag reflex or discomfort towards the back of your throat, place the pill towards the middle or tip of your tongue. Experiment with pill placement to see what best suits you.
#6 - Head Position
A simple yet effective approach to swallowing pills is to alter your head position. Start with your head centered, then try different head positions like turning your head to the left or right or tilting your head up or down. Then swallow it in that position. Simply turning your head can change your swallowing dynamics, ultimately aiding in swallowing the pill.
This approach comes from research conducted by Dr. Bonnie Kaplan with the University of Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. In the study, over 70% of participants said that changing their head position made pill swallowing easier and would apply this strategy in the future.
It is also beneficial to sit upright with your head centered. Posture helps facilitate the pill swallowing process.
#7 - Sip Size
Many have found benefits to varying the size of their sip when swallowing pills. Some can swallow pills with their spit, while others may use a full glass of water. The amount of liquid needed to swallow pills differs for everyone.
You may think the more water, the better. However, some people have found that using too much water can cause the pill to float around their mouth. Others have found that too small of a sip can cause the pill to stick to their tongue or cheeks.
The amount of water you need may vary per pill size and type as well since pills have different densities and consistencies. If you try to swallow a pill and don’t succeed the first few times, try varying the size of your sip.
#8 - Beverage Type
Experiment with hot, cold, diet, or carbonated, if water is not working for you. While there seems to be no direct studies linking the beverage type to pill swallowing, there are studies describing the benefits to swallowing in general. Studies suggest that carbonated, sour, and a cold stimulus can aid in swallowing as it helps the muscles contract. It can also lead to decreased aspiration. In addition, we have found anecdotal comments from blogs, YouTube videos, and conversations with people.
NOTE: Some medicines must be taken with water. Make sure to check the medication label prior to changing the beverage type.
#9 - Pre-Game
Prior to placing the pill in your mouth, pre-game with a few sips of water or your choice of beverage. This approach soothes the throat prior to swallowing the pill. It also helps prevent the pill from sticking to your cheeks or throat.
It can also be helpful to fill your mouth with water, being sure not to swallow it, before putting the pill in. This prevents the pill from touching the tongue or cheeks helping it remain undetected when swallowing. While some may find this approach difficult, it has been proven to work for others.
Bonus Tip - The Pill Skills Method
The Pill Skills Method teaches a person how to swallow pills with the assistance of The Pill Skills Beginner Kit. The kit includes instructions, practice pills, a progress log, and helpful hints. Though it may be simple, each component and design was well thought out and very intentional.
The instructions are designed based on a combination of existing medical research. This step by step guide allows for a positive experience when learning how to swallow pills.
The kit includes sugar based practice pills which gradually increase in size.
There are 7 levels with up to 3 pill sizes in each. Each level includes increasingly larger pill sizes. It is intentionally designed this way to build one’s confidence. Some of the pills in The Pill Skills Beginner Kit simulate the size and shape of common medications like Sudafed, Benadryl, and Advil. These practice pills can be used to test any of the tips and tricks previously mentioned.
The progress log is used for tracking success. You can log the date of the practice session, level attempted, pill size attempted, whether there was success or failure, and if a helpful hint was used or not.
The Pill Skills Beginner Kit includes a handy list of the tips and tricks above that could aid in the pill swallowing process.
It is important to create a calm, distraction-free environment when learning how to swallow pills. You should also sit with your head straight forward and centered. Place the pill on your tongue, take a sip of your choice of beverage, and swallow. When learning this new life skill, practice for no more than 10 minutes. Don’t practice when you’re in a hurry or feeling stressed.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it OK to cut, chew, crush, or mix my medication with food?
- Depending on the type of medication, if cut, chewed, crushed or mixed with food, it can lead to decreased effectiveness. Time release or coated pills should not be broken apart. It can lead to a higher risk of side effects and potential overdose.
- What are some forms of medication besides pills?
- Liquids, oral disintegrating tablets (dissolvable), and chewable tablets are some alternative forms. However, these medications are more expensive and often leave a poor taste in your mouth. Some medications also only come in pill form, making pill swallowing an important life skill to learn.
- When should my child learn how to swallow pills?
- Children are physically able to swallow pills at as early as 18 months. If your child is cooperative, motivated, and mature, then they are ready to learn. On average, most parents and physicians think that between 4-6 years old is when a child is ready to learn. In all cases, it is better to teach your child proactively, before they are sick and the medication is needed.
- Why should I teach my child how to swallow pills?
- Children are taught how to tie their shoes, say their ABCs, and brush their teeth among many other common life skills. It is just as, if not more, important to teach your child how to swallow pills proactively in order to create a positive, stress-free learning environment. By doing so, they can avoid a negative experience, preventing them from becoming part of the 40% of adult Americans who struggle or cannot swallow pills.
- Can I learn how to swallow pills with candy?
- While candies can be used, it may lead to confusion as pills can be associated with candy and is therefore NOT recommended. Also, if you start with a larger candy, like a Tic Tac or Skittle, there is a greater chance for a negative experience to occur. This can create a fear of swallowing pills in the future.
- Is it possible to be unable to swallow pills?
- Yes, a doctor can diagnose a person with dysphagia when they present a difficulty or inability to swallow food or liquid. A person can, however, have difficulty swallowing pills, but not have dysphagia.
- Why do I struggle to swallow pills?
- You can struggle swallowing pills for a multitude of reasons. One-third of people who struggle experience gagging, choking, or vomiting. Another reason is a built up psychological barrier based on a fear of swallowing pills, often stemming from past negative experiences. In few cases, the inability to swallow pills can be linked to an anatomical barrier, such as dysphagia, or temporary conditions, like antibiotics or chemotherapy.
- How many people struggle or are unable to swallow pills?
- According to the FDA, 40% of adult Americans struggle or are unable to swallow pills. Additionally, 8 percent admit to skipping a dose of prescribed medication. There are 210 million adults in the U.S. and if 8 percent are skipping medication because of difficulties, this is over 16 million people not getting proper treatment. This doesn’t even include children or over the counter medicine.
- What are the risks of not learning how to swallow pills?
- Medication adherence issues lead to roughly 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations in the U.S., costing the healthcare system upwards of 300 billion dollars annually. Pill swallowing is a subset of this problem. Not learning how to swallow pills can lead to health problems and may affect your overall well-being.
- What are the benefits of learning how to swallow pills?
- Learning how to swallow pills provides added convenience and peace of mind knowing that you or a loved one can swallow any type of medication, whenever, wherever. This ultimately improves your quality of life and alleviates stresses that you may experience. Additionally, there are financial savings, as pills are 5 to 100x cheaper than the liquid alternatives. There are also many benefits to doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
We hope you can see the importance and how quickly you can learn how to swallow pills!
Now we’d love to hear from you.
What methods have you tried? Have you used the Pill Skills Beginner Kit yet? If so, how did it go?