It's no coincidence that the expression "a bitter pill to swallow" refers to something tough to accept. The act of swallowing a pill can range from uneventful at best to gag-inducing at worst. Children, notorious pill avoiders, often are given vitamins and other medication in chewable or liquid form. But adults are expected to know how to take a solid pill. And as you age, you may find  yourself being prescribed a multitude of pills of all sizes, shapes, and textures. Here's how to make the medicine go down if you're having trouble:

  • Hide the pill. Not literally, but you may be able to swallow it by putting it inside a food that you like such as jello or yogurt. Check with your doctor or pharmacist, however, to make sure that there will be no adverse interactions between the drug and the food. Certain foods, such as grapefruit or dairy products, can affect medications.
  • Numb your throat. Using an over-the-counter throat anesthetizer, the kind sold to help reduce pain from sore throats, may help you relax enough to swallow. A cold soda straight from the bottle can also do the trick.
  • Crush it up. Some tablets can easily and safely be crushed. You can do this by putting them into a securely closed baggie and pounding them on a flat surface with a heavy bottle. Then mix them with yogurt or applesauce. But be aware that not all pills are designed to be ground up. Some medications have a time-release feature that allows the dose to be dispensed slowly into your system. Crushing the pill destroys this feature and means the full dose hits your system too quickly, causing side effects and possibly lessening its effectiveness.
  • Experiment. Certain people manage better by putting the pill on the tip of their tongue, while others can't get it down unless it's far back on the tongue. Still other swear that the center of the tongue is best. Do you do best with a small mouthful of water or a large swig? Should you tilt your head back while swallowing or keep it upright? Opinions are divided, so discover what works for you and make that part of your routine.
  • Get outside help. If you still can't manage to swallow pills, check out one of the over-the-counter devices meant to assist you. A specially designed pill-swallowing cup, with an elongated spout that delivers the pill right to your throat, may help. You also might be interested in a pill spray that you apply to your medication so it glides right down your throat.



Go Ask Alice, Columbia University's Health Education Program,,
Palmetto Health,