What to Do if You Have Trouble Swallowing Pills
Q: I've never been able to swallow pills. Every time I try, I end up
gagging. My doctor just gave me a new prescription and there is no chewable
option. I feel so anxious every time I try to take one that it's actually
making me gag even more! Are there any tricks that can help?
Dr. Donnica: First of all, rest assured that you are not alone! There are
as many tips as there are people who have, and have overcome, this problem. Your
anxiety about the situation is only making it worse. Have you discussed this problem
with your doctor or pharmacist? While the new prescription may not come in a chewable
form, it may come in a suppository, liquid, powder, sprinkle, sublingual, nasal
spray, injectable, or patch form. There may be another medication that is similar,
would work just as well for your problem, and comes in an alternate dosing form.
Your pharmacist may be able to prepare a special formulation for you.
Accept that swallowing pills is a skill that takes practice. It's not
natural for our bodies to swallow a solid substance without chewing it first.
You may want to practice with a small, benign pill substitute like mini-M &
M's, then work up to regular sized M & M's. Another option might
be to embed the pill in some form of food (e.g. Jell-O or ice cream) and swallow
both together. Try having some water in your mouth first and then inserting
and swallowing the pill. Alternately, chew 2-3 crackers and then try swallowing
the pill. Some people recommend sipping a cold, carbonated beverage straight
from the bottle or can when swallowing a pill. Others have found success by
spraying an over-the-counter topical anesthetic such as Chloraseptic® before
trying to swallow a pill. And finally, try placing the pill on the back
of your tongue, drinking some water, tilting your chin down toward your
chest, and then trying to swallow. Good luck!
Created: 8/8/2005  - Donnica Moore, M.D.