Pill Swallowing Tips

  1. Use a straw instead of drinking from the cup. It keeps your head more in neutral instead of tipping it back (which makes swallowing more difficult – try tipping your head back and swallowing, it’s hard). Bring the cup up to your mouth, rather than leaving on the table and bringing your head down to the cup. It is a more natural position for your head this way and an easier position for swallowing.
  2. A flavored liquid is preferred over water. A slightly thicker flavored liquid is even better (e.g. milk or chocolate milk) because it helps take it down better. The reason for the flavored liquid is when you get to actual pills it helps cover the flavor of the pill. If water is the only beverage, that can be used, but once you get to the actual pill capsule it may be more difficult.
  3. Don’t use liquid that is carbonated, especially through a straw. Too much going on in the mouth.
  4. Have a napkin or something available in case they need to spit out the “pill” and water.
  5. What to start with and why:
    1. Starting with yummy edibles make pill swallowing less anxiety provoking and fun. If you don’t swallow the m&m or tic tac “pill” on the first try it’s not a big deal. You can just eat it or spit it out. If using tic tacs, use a flavor the person likes. Have a big supply available, as you will probably be going through a lot.
    1. Starting with mini m&ms is best. If that doesn’t work in the person’s dietary restrictions, then substitute with something of similar size. Think of the properties e.g. will they slide down fairly well vs getting stuck in the mouth (e.g. a small piece of pretzel is dry and easily gets stuck in the mouth), does it have smooth edges (pretzels do not).
    1. Once they have done well with the mini m&ms, I move onto tic tacs. They are still smooth but getting slightly larger. Same ideas as mentioned above if there are dietary restrictions.
    1. Once they are getting good with the tic tacs you can move onto empty pill capsules. They can be purchased at pharmacies/drug stores. Cut them so they are smaller and put the 2 ends back together (so that it’s smooth on the outside and easier to swallow than half of a pill capsule with an open end). Initially when starting with capsules, it can be helpful to put a mini m&m inside to give a positive visual for the person since they’ve already had success with that. It just depends on the individual. Many will be spit out and it’s good to have something to catch the pill and water. That’s ok. Give the individual permission to spit it out if it doesn’t go down initially. This step usually takes many many trials. That’s ok. It takes time. As the individual improves, you can slowly increase the size of the ”pill” by cutting it less each time, but don’t go to that too quickly. Be sure they’ve gotten good at the smaller size first.
  6. Pill placement
    1. This can be tricky. You want to put the “pill” in the middle(ish) part of he tongue. Many individuals put it very far forward, which makes the distance greater to reach the throat.
    1. Using a mirror is helpful for some people so they can see where it is going.
  7. How much to sip
    1. Too little and there isn’t enough liquid to propel the “pill” far enough to swallow.
    1. Too much and the “pill” will float around the mouth instead of going to the throat in a more efficient route.
    1. So, how much to drink? A medium sip.
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