Do Your Kids Gag When Swallowing Pills? There’s a Trick for That!

My daughter has never been very good about taking pills. At fifteen, she still groans at the prospect of taking acetaminophen if she has a headache and would rather suffer than choke down the tiniest of pills. She’s not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from this inability to swallow medication without gagging and in some cases even choking.

University of Calgary recently discovered a method of pill swallowing that with a little practice and head-tilting, even the most difficult patient can gulp down medication with ease.

Most of us approach pill swallowing the same way we approach swallowing liquid and food—with our heads positioned straightforward. Because we have little to no difficulty doing this, it only seems logical to approach medication from the same angle.

Not so, suggest the U of C studies. Researchers discovered that turning the head to the side, tilting it back or tucking the chin downward make make it easier for kids to swallow pills.

When turning one’s head to the side, the esophagus opens wider, allowing pills to go down easier. Tilting the head back creates a straight shot from the mouth into the esophagus. Tucking the chin downward relaxes the throat.

U of C suggests practicing these different methods over a two week period with small, hard candy, such as Tic Tacs or Mini M&M’s and water. For full details on this study, including an instructional video that can be shared with kids to help them put these new methods into practice, visit the official U of C research site.