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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A bitter pill to swallow?

If you never have any problem pill-swallowing, or don't know anyone who does, don't bother going on reading this - just try swallowing one of these instead!

A lot of people do have trouble swallowing a pill or capsule. Do you find that no matter how hard you try, glass of water in hand, that the pill often still ends up in your mouth, and it just won't go down?

  I ask you this because I used to have a great deal of difficulty, and even after knowing for sure that I'd swallowed the pill, I was left with the sensation that it was stuck in my throat.

  So there are two separate annoyances here
  • getting that pill from mouth down your throat, and
  • that feeling it's stuck halfway after swallowing.
  Even now, occasionally, I get this latter unpleasant feeling (which, by the way, is illusory, however real it feels), but I have some ways round the problem of swallowing the pill.

Just as a brief explanation: until the past couple of years, I rarely took a capsule or pill in my life. If I'd had a minor headache, I'd just use soluble aspirin and drink it down. But now I am forced to take pills and capsules every day, several times a day, and it was only when that routine started that I discovered I often had trouble as I've described above.

  I was going to tell you all the wrong ways I tried to solve it, but let's cut to the chase. It was Tracey who put me straight with this.

  The most common mistake is to put the pill in your mouth, as far back as you can, take a sip of water, tilt your head back and try to toss the lot down.

  This usually results in drinking a lot of water and finding an often-nasty-tasting pill still securely in your mouth.

  A lot depends on the instructions on the pill bottle or what your GP tells you about whether a pill is taken with or without food. If you can't or don't want to take it with food, then go to plan B.

Plan A. With food.
This is the simplest solution to the whole problem. Take a bite of the food, chew it up to the point that you're about to swallow, slip the pill or capsule into or beside it, and it's all gone when you swallow. If it's particularly nasty tasting - and one of mine is! - slipping it right into the middle of a piece ready for swallowing and quickly doing so works for me. And - it leaves no sensation that there's a pill stuck halfway down my gullet as I keep on eating. YMMV.*
Plan B. With water.
Here's the trick.
(a) Place the pill on the top of the tip of your tongue, and take a good sip of water without dislodging the pill. Trial and error will give you the right amount of H2O no doubt.
(b) Tilt the head forward. That's right. Angle it down, not up. It seems counter-intuitive. Don't tip your head back. Gravity is not involved here! Not directly anyway.
  Now gently swallow the mouthful of water and simultaneously roll your tongue along the roof of your mouth, using it like a mini-broom to push the pill down the hatch. Keep your head inclined forward, not back.

  Somehow it works. Don't ask me why; it just does. [STOP PRESS: Tracey just reminded me why. At this angle, the pill floats to the top in your mouth, and just gets pushed down the throat like a barrel going over the Niagara Falls!] 

  Don't give up if you have a failure or two. You'll get there. And most of the time you won't have that annoying sensation that the pill's still in your throat.

Dedicated to those many people who have a real problem getting those damn pills into their stomachs.

*YMMV? You don't know what it means? Come on, get with the cool-talkin' peeps. Your Mileage May Vary. In other words, you might end up with a different result from mine. (It's OK, I didn't know what it meant all that long ago either, but I googled it, and the oracle revealed its secret.) You are now one of the Beautiful People, AFAIK. AFAIK? Google it yourself!


  1. Useful! Thanks
    I get that "stuck" sensation sometimes (not that I'm dealing with serious pills just painkillers etc), makes sense that it's something illusory as I know I've swallowed it!

    1. It's not necessarily the largest pill either - it's the one with the most friction on its surface. It still happens to me occasionally and I find it very irritating when it does as you feel sure the damn thing is still half-way down your throat!


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