Why Is It Hard For You To Swallow Pill-Form Medication And What Can You Do About It?

24 Sep

Do you have trouble swallowing pill-form medication? Do you find yourself missing doses because you can’t seem to bring yourself to push that little hard lump down your chute? If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, 40% of Americans report having trouble swallowing pills, with 8% of these people skipping doses of their medication because of the problem, and 4% of them ceasing to take their medication altogether. 

Why Is It Hard For You To Swallow Pills?

  • Fear – According to reputable thoracic surgeon Stephen Cassivi, psychological barriers are the leading cause of pill-swallowing difficulties. Whether a person gagged on a pill when they were very young, or just fear the possibility of getting a pill stuck in their throat, once they learn to associate pill-form medication with a bad reaction, it’s hard for them shake to the notion. This fear usually manifests itself as a tightening or constricting of the muscles in the throat, or an inability to swallow.
  • Dysphagia – For a small percentage of  the population affected by pill-phobia, an actual medical condition called dysphagia is the culprit behind their pill-swallowing woes. This disorder happens when the muscles in the throat and esophagus lose the ability to function due to a stroke or spinal cord injury, or when there’s an actual physical blockage in the esophagus. Generally, people with dysphagia will have difficulty swallowing any solid substance, so if you only experience trouble swallowing pills you can rule it out as the cause of your problem.

What You Can Do About It

  • Distract Yourself – If you can’t swallow pill-form medication because of a psychological barrier, the best thing you can do it to try to distract yourself from the act. Try placing the medicine in a small cup of pudding or applesauce — anything you don’t have to chew to swallow. Your body may be less apt to reject the pill if you’re consuming it along with a pleasant treat. Don’t crush or break the pill, though; many medications have a time-release coating that disperses the medication erroneously when broken down. 
  • Look To The Side – This trick was discovered a Canadian scientist, and it works for both those suffering from pill-phobia out of fear, and for those with dysphagia. When you turn your head slightly to one side, it makes the top opening of your esophagus a bit larger — perhaps giving you the little bit of extra room you need to swallow your pill-form medication trouble-free. 
  • Put Some Ice In Your Water – Warm, or even room-temperature beverages can cause the coatings of some pill-form medications to become tacky and stick to the tongue. Load a glass of water up with ice and let it sit for a moment before using it to take your pill. The freezing cold water will prevent the pill from feeling sticky, and it will also have a slight numbing effect on your throat.  
  • Contact An Apothecary – If you’ve tried the above tips with no success, visit an apothecary or compounding pharmacist. These professionals specialize in custom-creating medicines for people with special needs. They may be able to convert your medication to liquid or patch form, or divide the pills up into smaller sizes without sacrificing their time-release coatings. 

If you’ve been prescribed a medication, it’s important that you take it as suggested by your doctor or pharmacist or even places like Potter’s Apothecary. There are plenty of tips or tricks you can utilize to make swallowing pills easier, and if those fail, there are trained professionals ready to help you. Don’t ever skip a dose of your much needed medicine because you have a hard time getting it down.

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