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Two Tricks to Make It Easier to Swallow Pills

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Swallowing pills is important for millions of people who rely on medication to maintain their health and well-being. However, many individuals find it challenging to swallow pills, which can make medication intake difficult. In some cases, struggling with swallowing pills can even deter patients from taking their prescribed medication, which can result in negative health outcomes. That is why it is essential to learn tricks to ease the difficulty of swallowing pills to ensure appropriate medication use. In this article, we will discuss two easy tricks that help patients swallow pills more comfortably. They include drinking plenty of water and using pill-swallowing aids. By implementing these techniques, people can overcome the discomfort of swallowing pills and maintain their medication schedule.

Trick 1: Drink Plenty of Water

Swallowing pills can be made easier when paired with sufficient water intake. Drinking water before and after medication helps to facilitate the pill's passage to the stomach. Additionally, water assists in dissolving the medication, which can help ensure proper absorption and effectiveness. Below are some tips to help when drinking water with medication:

Importance of drinking water while swallowing pills

Drinking water is crucial when swallowing pills. The water includes many important roles in the process of swallowing pills:

  • Lubricating the throat to make swallowing smoother
  • Carrying the medication down to the stomach safely
  • Minimizing the leftover medication residue in the throat

It is essential to remain hydrated, particularly when taking medication. Patients are advised to drink approximately 8 ounces (oz) or 240ml of water for every pill taken.

Tips for drinking water

The following are some useful tips for drinking water to help make the medication ingestion experience more comfortable:

  • Sip: Patients should take smaller sips to prevent choking and make swallowing pills, less challenging
  • Use a straw: Using a straw can help the water travel more easily down the back of the throat.
  • Position: Patients should tilt their head back while swallowing to aid the medication's progress down the throat.

Best temperature of water for swallowing pills

Water temperature is also essential to ensure the comfortability of swallowing pills. Typically, room temperature water is recommended, but colder or warmer water could work better for you. The following are recommendations:

  • Cold water: It reduces the sensation of the pill in the mouth and makes swallowing easier.
  • Warm water: It relaxes the throat muscles, making swallowing more comfortable.

In summary, drinking plenty of water is a simple yet effective way to aid in swallowing pills. Patients are also advised to sip water while using a straw and adjust water temperature to make swallowing easier and more comfortable.

Trick 2: Use a Pill Swallowing Aid

For individuals struggling with swallowing pills, pill swallowing aids serve as an alternative option. Several types of swallowing aids exist, catering to different patient preferences, medication dosages, and other specific needs.

Different types of pill swallowing aids

The following are some commonly used pill swallowing aids:

  • Pill cups: For individuals who may struggle with tilting their head back while swallowing pills, pill cups provide a secure way of holding the medication at the back of the tongue where the person can then close their mouth and swallow without tilting their head back.
  • Pill crushers: Suitable for individuals that prefer to take their medication in a crushed form. Medications can be crushed in pill crushers and mixed in food or drinks for easier consumption.
  • Pill glide spray: Spray that provides a coating to act as lubrication between the mouth and the medication to make swallowing easier.
  • Pill swallow gel: Provides a gel-coated structure to the pill and the throat area to aid swallowing medication.
  • Pill bottles with extended openings: Designed for more oversized medications, which patients may find difficult to swallow using smaller pill bottle openings.

Pros and cons of using pill swallowing aids

While pill swallowing aids offer noticeable benefits, it is best to weigh the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Increases medication intake ease.
  • Suitable for children or elderly patients who may have difficulty swallowing certain pills.
  • Reduces the risk of respiratory problems by minimizing choking hazards from medication.

Cons:

  • Adds extra costs for the patient.
  • Pill swallowing aids may interact with the medication, altering its dosage and effectiveness.
  • The additional intake of products may result in allergic reactions or potentially yielding risks for drug interactions.

How to choose the right pill swallowing aid

To choose the appropriate swallowing aid, patients should consider the following factors:

  • Type and size of medication
  • Patient preference
  • Possible allergies or drug interactions

It is advisable for patients always to discuss their swallowing difficulties with a healthcare provider before choosing to introduce medication aids. An expert brings valuable insights in regards to choosing the right medication and best-suited swallowing aid.

Lifestyle Changes

Swallowing pills can be made easier with a few lifestyle changes. These modifications often require minor adjustments to one's daily routine.

Chewing Pills vs. Swallowing Pills

In some instances, the medication quantity or the medication's composition may be too harsh on the patient’s throat, making it nearly impossible to swallow the medication. Chewing may seem like an alternative to avoid swallowing whole pills, but this method should be avoided when possible. When medication is chewed, it interferes with the medication's time-released mechanism, hence decreasing the medication's effectiveness. Instead, try either of the following with your healthcare provider's approval:

  • Crushing medication: Alternatively, medication can be crushed and mixed with food or beverage.
  • Liquid medicine: Popular options for children under the age of four and patients that have difficulty swallowing pills.

Modifications in Food to Make Swallowing Pills Easier

Varying the food texture and size can make swallowing easier and reduce gag reflexes. Here are a few food modifications that can help:

  • Thicker textures: Thickened beverages or soft foods help the medication cling to the food, allowing easy consumption.
  • Smaller bites: Cut food into smaller pieces, making them easier to swallow.
  • Optimal food temperature: Cold or hot drinks and foods may cause discomfort to some patients. Room temperature or lukewarm liquids and foods are generally helpful.

Healthy Habits to Adopt to Aid Better Digestion

Incorporating healthy habits in your daily routine can also aid with better digestion, making swallowing just a bit easier. Here are some tips:

  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help keep the mouth moist, making swallowing pills a little more comfortable.
  • Food choices: Avoid unhealthy foods that could clog the throat or upset the stomach. Instead, opt for a well-balanced diet that is friendly on the stomach.
  • Stimulate saliva production: Sugar-free candies or gum can stimulate the production of saliva and lubricate the throat, making swallowing medication a bit easier.

Precautions and Warnings

Swallowing pills should be taken seriously and only done under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Below are some precautions and warnings about swallowing pills to ensure safe consumption.

Precautions Before Swallowing Pills

Before swallowing a pill, consider the following:

  • Read the label: Ensure that you have the correct medication. Read the label and follow the dosage instructions to the letter.
  • Check for adverse reactions: Some medications may interact with other medication or food. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if any adverse reactions or interactions are possible.
  • Standing Position: Swallow pills while standing up or in an upright position. This position prevents the pill from getting stuck in the throat.
  • Avoid lying down: Swallow pills when standing up or in an upright position. Swallowing in this position prevents the pill from getting stuck in the throat.
  • Communication with healthcare provider: Inform your healthcare provider if you have difficulty swallowing pills, have tightness in the chest, or abdominal pains after swallowing medication.
  • Avoid sharing medication: Share medication only when advised to do so by your healthcare provider.

Side Effects of Swallowing Pills

While swallowing pills is generally safe, certain medications may cause side effects or allergic reactions. Some of these side effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Abdominal pains and cramps
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Inability to swallow
  • Allergic reactions such as rashes, hives, or difficulty in breathing.

If you experience any side effects after swallowing medication, discontinue the medication and seek immediate medical attention.

Safe Practices While Swallowing Pills

Practicing the following techniques while swallowing pills can improve swallowing experience:

  • Drink plenty of water: Drinking plenty of water before and after swallowing pills can prevent dehydration and discomfort.
  • Take one pill at a time: Swallowing too many pills can lead to choking or difficulty swallowing.
  • Do not crush pills without doctor's approval: Certain medications may lose their effectiveness when crushed.
  • Do not mix pills with food or drink without doctor's approval: Some medications may not work correctly when mixed with certain foods or beverages.
  • Use a pill swallowing aid if needed: Use a pill swallowing aid under the guidance of your healthcare provider.

It is critical to follow precautions and safe practices while swallowing pills to ensure successful medication intake.

Conclusion

Swallowing pills is an essential aspect of medication intake. It can be challenging, but with the right techniques, the process can be more comfortable and less stressful. We hope this article has provided insights into simple tricks that make swallowing pills a breeze.

Remember, the method you choose to swallow pills impacts your medication's effectiveness and your overall health. Drinking plenty of water and using a pill-swallowing aid are handy techniques that can make swallowing pills easier. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as chewing pills or modifying your food intake can have a meaningful impact.

If you continue to experience difficulty or discomfort in swallowing pills, consult with a healthcare provider for additional advice. A healthcare provider may consider using different formulations or adjusting doses.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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