What Makes the Medicine Go Down?

For years I’ve subscribed to the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter: The Newsletter of Nutrition, Fitness, and Self-Care. It’s been rated No. 1 by journals such as U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. In the September 2006 issue (volume 22, Issue 12), they have a bit on taking meds. I’ve copied it here.

What Makes the Medicine Go Down?

If you have trouble swallowing pills, especially large ones, the following suggestions may help. Try different techniques to see what works for you.

  • Before you begin, take a deep breath and exhale. This may help relax you and possibly even help inhibit your gag reflex.
  • Take a swallow of water before you put the pill in your mouth, especially if you have a dry mouth.
  • Put the pill as far back on your tongue as possible, and swallow with another sip. Using a thicker fluid, like milk, may help.
  • Don’t throw your head back; this stretches the esophagus and makes it harder to swallow. You might even try tilting your head forward toward your chest when you swallow.
  • Another option: drink from a soda bottle or similar bottle. By keeping your lips on the bottle as you drink, you’ll set up a sucking action that makes the pill doe down more easily.

If you still have trouble:

  • Crush pills or open capsules and mix into applesauce, chocolate pudding, or other foods that go down easily. But first ask your pharmacist if it’s okay to do this, as some pills, including time-release, enteric coated, and especially Concerta, should not be altered.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are easier-to-swallow versions of your medicine. There may be liquid, powder, chewable, even suppository alternatives. Multi-vitamins and calcium often come in liquid and chewable forms too.

And, one last thing I learned in my CPR course about choking. One of the most common things that adults choke on is a handful of pills taken all at once. So, help the medicine go down: take your pills easily and wisely.