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Difficulty swallowing medications

Published on March 8, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on March 26, 2024 at 8:00

Swallowing medication can be difficult for some people. The following information may help you find solutions.

Causes and triggers

A number of factors can reduce a person's ability to swallow:

  • A physical obstruction (e.g., a narrowing of the esophagus [the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach])
  • Nerve or muscle disorders (e.g., muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease)
  • Fear of choking (with no physical cause)

In some cases, several of these factors may be involved. Some medications can also make swallowing more difficult. For example, they may taste bad or be large in size.

Difficulty swallowing medications can affect your health in the following ways:

  • You could get discouraged and miss doses. The effectiveness of the treatment may then be reduced.
  • Your resistance to the medication may cause water to backtrack into your nose or even your lungs.

Technique for swallowing a tablet or capsule:

  • Drink a bit of water to lubricate your throat.
  • Tilt your head back slightly and place the tablet on the back of your tongue.
  • Take a sip of water.
  • Slowly lower your chin to swallow.

It might be easier for you to swallow the medication if your head is not in line with the rest of your body. Try to swallow your tablets with your head turned to one side or tilted forward or back. This will allow you to find the position that is most comfortable for you.

Some people may need a little practice. You can try swallowing small pieces of candy and gradually increasing their size. To do this, you'll need a variety of candies of different sizes. Here are a few examples of candy you can use, from smallest to largest:

  • Cake sprinkles
  • Nerds
  • Tic Tacs or Skittles
  • Smarties or M&M's

When should I see a health care professional?

Talk to your pharmacist if you have trouble swallowing your medication despite trying the tips mentioned above. They may do one of the following:

  • Substitute your medication for a liquid form, chewable tablet, or suppository
  • Change your treatment by giving you a medication that's easier to swallow or available in different forms
  • Have a liquid preparation made especially for you
  • Recommend that you swallow your tablets with soft food (e.g., yogurt or applesauce)
  • Assess whether your medication can be cut or crushed if it is a tablet, or opened if it is a capsule

It is essential that you consult your pharmacist before changing the form of your medication yourself (e.g. opening a capsule, crushing a tablet), as some medicines must be swallowed whole. Also, some medicines should not be taken with certain foods (e.g. dairy products, grapefruit). Before proceeding with any of these methods, make sure it's right for you.

The drugs and pharmaceutical services featured on the website are offered by pharmacists who own the affiliated pharmacies at Familiprix. The information contained on the site is for informational purposes only and does not in any way replace the advice and advice of your pharmacist or any other health professional. Always consult a health professional before taking or discontinuing medication or making any other decision. Familiprix inc. and the proprietary pharmacists affiliated with Familiprix do not engage in any way by making this information available on this website.