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How To Overcome Fear of Swallowing Pills

Updated on December 30, 2014

Difficulty Swallowing Pills

I have had trouble swallowing pills most of my life. It comes from my fear of swallowing pills. My parents had tried to train me and my sister to do it at an early age. It was just a small vitamin, but I choked on it. That incident is what I believe started my difficulties with swallowing pills.

Everyone will need to take medicine at some point in their life so I have had to find different ways to deal with it. I have had to change strategies throughout the years as what had worked with some medicines in the past, I was not able or allowed to do with a new medicine.

Apparently I am not the only one with this issue. According to statistics approximately 40 percent of the population has difficulty swallowing pills. If you struggle with it as well read on, I am sure at least one of the techniques that I tried can work for you.

Intro Photo By:whatsittoyou

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The Liquid Solution

Image courtesy of alexa627 / http://www.flickr.com

One of the things you can try to do is when you are prescribed medication, or buying it yourself, ask if it is available in a liquid format. This worked when I was a child and I got tonsillitis frequently. I always made sure I got the liquid medicine. However some of the liquids can taste so bad you just don't want to take it.

What I learned during this time is that you should inquire about what flavors are available. If you or your children are prescribed antibiotics for tonsillitis/strep throat, I highly recommend you chose the banana flavor as then you don't notice the medicine. Strawberry is bearable, but the cherry flavor does not mask the medicine at all.

For day to day medicine Children's Motrin grape flavor tastes good. You can even use Children's Motrin as an adult, the dosage amount is given by weight. My sister actually finds this stuff works better for curing a fever, for her, than adult medicine does.

Chewing Technique

The liquid technique doesn't always work since not all medicines are available in a liquid form. Sometimes you will be required to get your medicine in a pill form. At that point my solution was to chew the pill. Some were not that bad, but others tasted horrible. However I had no choice as I could not get over my fear of swallowing a pill.

So my slightly better solution was to chew on other food while chewing the pill. It wasn't perfect but it helped to mask the horrible flavor of the pills.

You can not always rely on the chewing technique. There are some pills you are not supposed to chew, as it will affect the way the medicine is administered into your system. So check with your doctor to make sure it is okay for the type of medicine that you were prescribed.

How I Am Able To Swallow a Pill Easily

When I got my wisdom teeth removed I couldn't chew, but I had to take antibiotics and pain medicine. This is when I finally found a solution that works for me. My father pointed out that I had no problem swallowing a mouth full of food, so why should I have a problem with a pill? For some people that is the solution: think of the pill as food. It is merely mind over matter and when they realize they swallow a big mouthful of food a pill shouldn't be a problem.

Well it still mattered in my mind, so I instead combined the thoughts and finally came up with my solution. Since I couldn't chew but I needed to eat something I had mashed potatoes. I scooped up a mouthful of mashed potato, when I was ready to swallow, I put the pill in with the food, and then I swallowed. Since the food is solid I don't feel/notice the pill like I do when it is taken with just water.

That is the way I take all of my pills now and I find it so much easier. I can take my pill with whatever meal I am eating. If it is something to take before bed, I will take it with some crackers or cookies. Since I no longer have to chew the pill itself, I can completely avoid the bad tasting pill issue.

Now the only time I have difficulty is when the pill is really large. That is still intimidating and sometimes they are noticeable even in food. So I have bought a pill cutter to cut any pill into a smaller and more manageable size.

Pill Splitter or Crusher

Apex Ultra Pill Splitter, Ergonomic Pill Splitter with Retracting Blade Guard, for Cutting Medication Tablets in Half
Apex Ultra Pill Splitter, Ergonomic Pill Splitter with Retracting Blade Guard, for Cutting Medication Tablets in Half

This is great for when you get a large pill prescribed for you. You can put it into this device and it will cut it into smaller pieces for you.

 
Carex Health Brands Ultra Pill Crusher - 1Each
Carex Health Brands Ultra Pill Crusher - 1Each

If even pieces are too large for you, this device will crush the pill into a powder.

 

The Proper Way

I have had to take pills twice in my life without food. Once before I had my wisdom teeth removed. You have to take an anti-saliva pill and you can not eat anything for 12 hours before the surgery. I was so happy that the pill was at least really tiny.

The second time was while I was in the hospital after I broke my ankle. After they got my X-rays results back they gave me pain medication and only a drink. I was able to take it, I am not sure if it was because I knew I didn't have a choice or the fact the nurse was watching me.

However when I am given the choice, I still always choose to take them with food. Since I don't hesitate or have any fear of swallowing pills when I take them that way.

Professional Advice

There are tips and tricks that are supposed to make it easier to swallow pills without using food. There is an article from Medsafe (New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority) Helping Medicine Capsules Go Down. It gives some helpful advice for swallowing pills the proper way.

Do You Have Any Tips, Tricks, or Advice To Make It Easier To Swallow a Pill?

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    • profile image

      skyearellano 3 years ago

      Try drinking a thicker liquid when swallowing your pills. It's what I do and it makes them 99% easier to swallow. I drink a thick milk or I'll go out and buy some strawberry and banana nectar juice. They taste amazing and there only a dollar! I hope this helped (:

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 3 years ago

      My daughter has had the same issues with swallowing pills as you have, and she came up with the same solution! Great minds think alike! :)

    • asereht1970 profile image

      asereht1970 3 years ago

      I do have trouble swallowing a pill. I have to follow it up with 2 glasses of water to be able to swallow it. Nice lens.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      For me it's not a fear, but throat problem that makes for the concern. I think you've covered this topic in a most readable way.

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 4 years ago

      I still don't like swallowing pills, but my Grandfather taught me to take a drink of milk first. It seems to coat the throat, and they seem to go down a bit easier. I also put them to the very back of my tongue. My oldest daughter; however, cannot swallow a pill to save her life! I feel so bad for her. Thanks for the lens! It was really interesting!

    • profile image

      SamanthaHaupt 4 years ago

      My boyfriend has problems swallowing pills. This lens has many great tips that I'll be sure to share with him! Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have had a horrible fear of swallowing pills my entire life, I had to crush them, take them in applesauce etc.. Today was the first day that learned to swallow pills. I am 54 year old male. When I had tried before, my tongue would always trap it and say "no way that is going down the hatch, I know it is a pill". Today I started with small tablets and simply pushed the pill so far down my mouth, that the tongue could not trap it. A little swig of water and down they went. Then I took a very large oblong tablet. I dabbed some butter around the outside and pushed it way back with my finger. A little swig of water and the horse pill was on its way to my gizzard. Funny how such a simple thing had been a lifelong problem, but once I knew that I just had to do it to get better, the fear of explaining my pill rejection problem to my doctor was greater than having to take the pill. I can't wait till I see him again on Wed. and show him I can do it now no sweat. Three hours ago was the first time I ever got one down. If I can do it, that means you can do it to!

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      I can swallow 5 or 10 pills at a time. I kept adding one pill to the total because I was taking lots of supplements. My husband uses tilting the head forward. He couldn't swallow pills until he learned that, and now he does fine.

    • profile image

      WinWriter 4 years ago

      I like your idea with the mashed potatoes. Very creative. I hate swallowing pills too.

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 4 years ago

      I had the same issue when I was young. But I conquered my fear and was able to tolerate pills now. Sundae ;-)

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Pills go down super easy with applesauce, especially baby applesauce. It's smooth and slippery and greases the way for the pill to go down. After using this method for a while I over came my pill taking issues and can now take 3 at a time with water. You do give some good advice for those who are still pill challenged.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 4 years ago from US

      I use a pill crusher, similar to the one you've spotlighted above. They work great! I can't take any of my meds without it.

    • lisln profile image

      LorLinda 4 years ago from Denver Colorado

      I have no problem swallowing pills but they have chewables as well as liquids for a lot of the pills these days so it makes it easier for those who do. Good job you this lens.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I used to have this problem, but my Dr suggested I practice swallowing coco pops or another 'puffy' cereal to get use to the sensation. I did for a while and can now swallow almost any pill.

    • profile image

      angelatvs 4 years ago

      I can't swallow them at all. I use DayQuil as a fever reducer and also as a pain reliever. I take chewable gummy vitamins. Thankfully I have always been pretty healthy and haven't had to force the issue.

    • JennyRowling profile image

      Jenny Rowling 4 years ago from London, UK

      When I was little and I had pneumonia, I had to drink some big pills. I remember well how difficult it was to swallow them.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I remember very clearly being at my grandparents' house and being given a red One A Day vitamin - years before they made chewable vitamins for children - and trying to swallow that thing. Red dye went everywhere! I suppose it finally went down, but not without fighting it the whole way. (Glad our parents knew we were healthy even if the grandparents worried that we were too skinny!) I do okay swallowing pills now, but I still have the most trouble with large vitamins. I just make sure I have plenty of water just in case. You know, a pill stuck in the esophagus actually can cause damage, so make sure to drink plenty of water (or eat lots of mashed potatoes!) to be sure it gets all the way down.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't have any tips, tricks or advice on this one. Wish I did -- I have a terrible time swallowing pills.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 4 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I used to not be able to take even the tiniest pill. But I can now! The key is not to think about swallowing the pill, but to think about taking gulps of the water. Toss the pills in your mouth, and quickly take continuous big gulps one after another. After 3-4, the pills are gone.

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