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Tips for getting that darn pill down

Difficulty swallowing pills is very common.   And when a person has dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), any issues with pills can become even worse.   But there are a few tricks that I suggest to patients that really seem to make a difference.

Often pills will get stuck because the throat is dry.  A huge number of medications have “dry mouth” as a side effect, so dryness in the mouth and throat are common.   When you add an uncoated pill to a somewhat dry throat, it’s very inclined to stick.   Here are my 2 favorite suggestions….

Pill Glide

Try Pill Glide.  This product is simply glycerin oil with some flavor in a spray bottle. Spray a couple of squirts into the back of the mouth before taking a pill.  Then swallow the pill like usual. The pill will become coated in the oil as it passes through the back of the throat and then it just slides on down the throat.   Pill Glide used to be available in drug stores in the section where they keep the pill cutters and boxes.  But I haven’t seen it in a drug store in a while.   It is available online (including Amazon) for about $8.   Ihave many patients that swear by it.

So if you don’t have Pill Glide and a pill sticks in your throat, the natural tendency is to grab a glass of water.  People tell me they swallow sip after sip but they just can’t get the darned pill down.   This is because the water just wizzes down the throat past the pill leaving it behind.  A better bet is to take a bite of food to try and clear the pill.   Some good choices include a banana, a bite of bread, some pudding, or any other dense food.  The bite of food will act more like a sponge and sweep the pill down.  Much less frustrating than sip after sip of water.

And if all else fails, talk with your pharmacist about if your pill may be available in liquid format.  Some over-the-counter medications are available in liquid format as a prescription.

About the author

Jen Carter

Jen Carter is a speech pathologist who has been treating adults with dysphagia for more than 25 years.  She is a Board-Certified Specialist in Swallowing and treats patients at her clinic the Carter Swallowing Center in Denver, Colorado.