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Getting Kids to Swallow Pills

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Getting Kids to Swallow Pills


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Teenager cannot swallow pills

June 2009

My 15-year-old son has such an exaggerated gag reflex that he cannot swallow pills. He takes cough medicine, Tylenol, etc. in liquid form at home but I am worried about when he goes to camp this summer. He doesn't have trouble with any specific food and eats a wide variety of food but says he feels like he will choke when he tries swallowing over-the-counter Claritin, etc. anon


I had the same problem when I was that age. Couldn't swallow any but the tiniest of pills. I was also mortally terrified of stinging insects. Both phobias went away by the time I was 17. My parents never bothered me about either phobia. Shoulder shrugs and ''oh well'' was about all they ever said. Over it
I have difficulty swallowing pills, with water, too. It's really bad when they're gelatinous and get stuck in my throat! Yuch. Instead of swallowing them with water, I chew up a little bread, and insert the pill in or alongside of the chewed-up, soft, doughy ball, and swallow. Works great for me. Crackers work, too. -ms
Don't worry. There is a a claritin tab that you put on your tounge and it melts. Very easy to use. Look carefully at the boxes to find teh right one. Anon
If he is motivated to learn to swallow pills, start with mini m-&-m's. Take a sip of fluid first so the mouth is moist, then the m&m (with more liquid or not - see which works best for him), then another sip. Some find it easier to put the ''pill'' way back on the tongue, others prefer to place it mid-way back and then wash it down. If even that is tough, see if it makes a difference with different liquids, - plain water, chocolate milk, cold vs warm, etc. Or even something thick like honey. When he's mastered the mini ones, move on to regular ones. And it isn't the end of the world if he takes liquid meds. anon.

Helping 9-year-old swallow pills

Aug 2002

Does anyone have tips/techniques/methods for teaching a sensitive 9-year-old to swallow pills? She needs to take medication and this is a hurdle. Thanks! Anon


I taught my son to swallow a pill thus:
- open your mouth wide & stick out your tongue as far as you can
- put the pill as far back on the tongue as you can (you may have
to do this for him at first)
- draw the tongue back into the mouth
- drink a glass of water
Good luck Dianna
My mom used to crush the pill with two spoons on top of each other (like spooned together, har har), add a teaspoon of sugar, give it to me, and I'd wash it down with some water. You can also dissolve the pill in water but it means it takes longer to get it all down. I found the sugar counteracted the bitterness of the pill and made it somewhat tolerable. I know one person who cannot swallow pills and she is an adult! So it may be that your daughter just has a severe gag reflex. I hope this helps, Laurel
I taught my kids to swallow pills by letting them practice with tic-tacs. They had some concern re choking/having it go down the wrong pipe, I explained the pill would float down with the drink just like their cookie crumbs float down the right pipe with their milk. This worked great for us. If taste is an issue, you can coat the pill in peanut butter or that hardening syrup used for ice cream (just put in the freezer a minute or so to harden on the pill) or whatever your daughter might like. If all else fails, Solano Avenue Pharmacy is a compounding pharmacy and can make up most pill meds into chewable ''troches'' (sp') in a variety of flavors. This works better for some meds than others. Tiny pills/dosages are harder to make into uniformly dosed chewables. Good luck!
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