Pill Swallowing Made Easier

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So I’m okay revealing that pill swallowing can be a challenge, even in my home. My younger daughter did, in fact, learn to swallow pills before her older brother. (I think that made him learn faster as well because who wants to be beaten out by their younger sibling?)

It’s pretty normal for kids to have trouble swallowing pills, especially when they are young. More than 50 percent of children have issues getting a standard size pill or capsule down their throat. A study published in Pediatrics evaluated pill swallowing interventions since 1987 and found causes included the child’s stage of development, fear, anxiety or problems with “unpleasant flavors.” 

Researchers found that swallowing training in kids as young as 2 helped increase the odds that the experience wouldn’t become an issue as they grew up. Flavored throat spray, specialized pill cups, simple verbal instruction and head posture training all helped children swallow pills easier. 

I’m among the parents who have worked with my kids to make the experience more, um, palatable. It can be challenging for even the most even-tempered adult. Here are a few tips to help:

Start in the baking aisle with candy sprinkles for cake decorating. These taste good and dissolve so your child doesn’t have to worry about it getting it stuck in the throat or choking.

You can eventually increase the size of the “sugar pill” until your child is able to swallow. I recommend having a sip of water even before taking the pill so that the throat is moist.

Make sure when practicing swallowing candy “pills” to always have your child drink a sufficient amount of water and not just a sip. You want the pill to enter the stomach and not stick in the throat.

Ask your pediatrician if the prescribed or over-the-counter medication is available as a caplet or capsule, which may be easier to swallow. Some tablets have a bitter taste that turns kids off.

Some kids do better if they put the pill on the back of their tongue and tilt their head back a little to swallow with water. Others like to look straight ahead. 

Some are afraid they will choke on a pill. Have them open their mouth, look in a mirror and say “ahhh” and they’ll see how big the throat is. 

Some parents find it works to wrap the pill in a small piece of banana and then have their child swallow, followed by a sip or two of water. It’s also okay to put the pill in yogurt or apple sauce, but don’t crush or break the pills because they don’t work as effectively.

Swallowing pills takes practice. So give it some time and keep practicing.

Source: Pediatrics, May, 2015