How to Swallow a Pill

Three Methods:Taking Pills with FoodTaking Pills with LiquidsTrying Alternative Techniques

While it seems like an easy task, swallowing a pill is something that many adults and children have great difficulty doing. The fear of gagging causes the throat to tighten up so that the pill stays in your mouth until you spit it out. Fortunately, there are various ways to approach the problem so that you can relax, overcome the fear of choking, and just let the pill easily slide down.

Method 1
Taking Pills with Food

  1. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 1
    Eat bread. If you are trying to take a pill and just can't seem to get it to go down, try using a piece of bread. Pull off a small piece of bread and chew it until you are ready to swallow. Before you swallow, take your pill and stick it in the mass of bread in your mouth. Once you close you mouth, swallow the food with the pill inside. The pill should go down smoothly.[1]
    • You can also use pieces of a bagel, a cracker, or a cookie as well. The texture is similar enough to help the pill go down once the food is chewed.
    • You can also take a drink of water afterward to help it go down easier.
    • Some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach. Check the bottle of your medication to see if you need to take your medicine on an empty stomach.
  2. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 2
    Cut a gummy bear. To help you swallow a pill, you can stick it inside a gummy bear. Take the gummy bear and cut a small pocket in the stomach of the bear. Slip the pill inside. Eat the gummy bear, but don't chew it; chewing some medication will change the duration and timing onset of the medication. Just try to swallow it, then once it's in your throat quickly drink your water.[2]
    • This may be difficult if you can't swallow the gummy bear. It may take practice.
    • This method is especially helpful for children. Helping mask the pill taking act with a gummy bear will help ease her into taking her medication.
  3. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 3
    Put the pill inside honey or peanut butter. Pills can be taken with honey or peanut butter because they ease the passage of the pill down your throat. Get a spoon full of either food. Place the pill in the middle of dollop of food you have on the spoon. Make sure to push it into the food. Next, swallow the spoonful of honey or peanut butter with the pill inside. Wash down with water.[3]
    • You should drink water before and after this method. The honey and peanut butter are relatively thick and can feel slow going down. Hydrating your throat beforehand and after will help get the food down quicker and without choking.
  4. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 4
    Try soft food. If you can't take your pill with bread, try taking it in a soft food such as applesauce, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, or gelatin. This is a common method used in hospitals for patients who have difficulty in swallowing. Make a small dish of the food. Drop the pill into the dish. Eat a little bit of the food before you take the bite with the pill in it. Then take the bite with the pill in it. It should go down easily with the food when you swallow.[4]
    • Make sure you don't chew in the pill.
  5. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 5
    Practice with small candy first. One of the main reasons people find it difficult to swallow pills is because their throats reject the intrusion of the pill and tense up. In order to overcome this, you can practice swallowing small candies to familiarize your throat with swallowing something whole without the risk of choking or injury. Take a small candy such as a sprinkle, a mini M&M, or a Nerd. Put them in your mouth like a pill and swallow it with a drink of water. Repeat until you feel comfortable with this size.
    • Next, you move up to a slightly larger sized candy such as a Skittle, regular M&M, Jelly Belly jelly bean, or Tic Tac. Repeat the same procedure with this size until you feel comfortable.[5]
    • Practice every day for about 10 minutes until you're swallowing a piece of candy that's the same size and shape of the pill you need to take.
    • This can help children work up to taking medication. Just make sure you explain that taking medication is serious and that pills should not be thought of as candy.
  6. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 6
    Eat mandarin oranges. Try swallowing mandarin orange segments whole. After you get used to that, put your pill into an orange segment and swallow it whole. The slimy texture of the mandarin orange will ease the passage of the pill and make it easy to swallow.[6]
    • Drink water afterwards to ensure it goes down as easily as possible.

Method 2
Taking Pills with Liquids

  1. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 7
    Sip cool water. When you are taking medication, you need to make sure that your throat is as hydrated as possible to ease the passage of the pill. Sip from your water a few times before trying to take the pill. Place the pill on the back of your tongue, then drink water until you swallow the pill.
    • Take a few additional gulps after the pill is in your throat to help it move down.
    • The water should be cool or room temperature, but not cold or hot.[7]
  2. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 8
    Try the two gulp method. Take your pill and place it on your tongue. Take a huge gulp of water and swallow the water, but not the pill. Next, take another gulp of water and swallow it and the pill. Take one last normal drink of water to help the passage of the pill.
    • This method opens up your throat wider with the first swallow, which allows the pill to ease down your throat, which is not larger, on the second swallow.[8]
  3. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 9
    Use a straw. For some people, using a straw to drink water or a beverage helps the pill to go down better. Place the pill on the back of your tongue. Drink something through a straw and swallow the liquid and the pill. Keep drinking for a few sips after you swallow it to help the pill go down.
    • The suction used to pull the liquid through the straw makes it easier to swallow the pill.[9][10]
  4. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 10
    Drink a lot of water first. Some people find that a lot of water helps ease the passage of the pill. Drink a mouthful of the water. Open the edge of your lip slightly to slip the pill into your mouth. Next, swallow the mouthful of water and the pill.
    • If the pill feels lodged in your throat, you can drink more water after you swallow the pill.
    • Fill your mouth about 80% with water. If you overfill your mouth, you will not be able to swallow all the water at once, and the method may be less effective.
    • You may be able to feel either the water or the pill in your throat. This does not usually trigger the gag reflex and is perfectly harmless.
    • You can use this method with drinks other than water.[11]
  5. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 11
    Help your child swallow a pill. Children as small as 3 years old may have to take a pill. At this age, you child may find it difficult to comprehend swallowing a pill or may be afraid of choking. If this is the case, help them understand what is happening. A simple way to help them swallow a pill is to give them a drink of water and tell her to hold it in her mouth while she looks up at the ceiling. Slip the pill in the side of her mouth and wait for the pill to settle in the back of her throat. After a few moments, tell her to swallow, and the pill should go down her throat with the water.[12]
    • You can try any of the other methods with food or drink on your child unless it says otherwise.

Method 3
Trying Alternative Techniques

  1. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 12
    Try the pop-bottle method. Fill a plastic bottle with water. Put the pill on your tongue. Next, close your lips snugly around the opening of the water bottle. Put your head back and take a drink of the water. Keep your lips lightly around the bottle opening and use suction to pull the water into your mouth. The water and the pill should go down your throat.
    • Don't let air into the bottle when you take a drink.
    • This method is best when used with large tablets.[13][14]
    • The suction action of your drink of water will open your throat wider and help you swallow the pill better.
    • This method is not intended for children. Only older individuals should attempt this method.
  2. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 13
    Use the lean-forward method. For this method, place the pill on your tongue. Take a drink of water but don't swallow it yet. Tilt your head down with your chin towards your chest. Let the capsule float to the back of your mouth and then swallow the pill.
    • This method works best on pills in capsule form.[15][16]
    • You can try this method on your child as well. After she takes a sip of water, just have her stare at the floor while you slip the capsule in the side of her mouth. The pill will float and she can swallow it and the water.[17]
  3. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 14
    Relax. Anxiety can be a significant factor in preventing an individual from swallowing a pill. Relaxation is important. If you are anxious, your body will be tense and you will have more trouble swallowing the pill. In order to prevent this, you need to relax. Sit down with a glass of water and do whatever you can to ease any anxiety. Find a quiet place, listen to music that calms you, or meditate.
    • This will help soothe your nerves and break the association of pill time being stressful, so your body will be less likely to gag.
    • If you are having trouble, you can talk to a psychologist to help you break through your anxiety about taking a pill.[18]
    • If you are trying to help a child swallow a pill, help make them feel comfortable by getting her mind off of the act before asking her to do it. Read her a story, play a game, or find some other activity that helps her relax before asking her to take the pill. The calmer she is, the more likely she will be to take the pill.
  4. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 15
    Calm your fears. You may be worried that a pill will not fit down your throat, especially if it is a large pill. To help you squash this fear, stand in front of a mirror. Open your mouth and say "ahhhhh." This will show you how wide your throat is and should show that a pill can clearly fit down it.[19]
    • You can also use a mirror to place the pills on your tongue. The farther back you put the pill, the shorter ways it has to go before you swallow it.
    • You can also do this with a child who is terrified of choking. Do it along with her to show that you understand her fears, but convince her that there is nothing to fear.
  5. Image titled Swallow a Pill Step 16
    Find alternatives to pills. There are many medications that are available in multiple forms. You may be able to get your medication as a liquid, a patch, a cream, an inhaled version, a suppository, or a dispersible, which is a pill that dissolved in water. Talk to your doctor about your options, especially if you have a hard time swallowing pills, no matter what method you try.[20]
    • Don't take a pill and try to use it in any other way unless your doctor says you can. Don't crush pills to make them a dispersible or try to use a pill as a suppository that isn't supposed to be. Always consult your doctor before you change the way in which you take medication.


  • Try to buy pills that are coated. They slide down more easily and are less likely to taste bad if they sit on your tongue longer than they should.
  • Try drinking it with an iced soda or something with flavor. It masks the taste of the pill. Though with some medicinal pills, they cannot be taken with soft drinks or juices. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
  • All of these methods can be used to help children take pills unless otherwise noted. Make sure you are more conscious about the size of the food the child eats.
  • Minimize the time that the pill spends sitting on your tongue. Get in the habit of putting the pill on your tongue and drinking the water in one swift, smooth motion.
  • A banana, slightly chewed up in your mouth can work as a substitute for water.
  • Use liquid or gel pills for easier swallowing.
  • Don't grind your pills unless your doctor or pharmacists says that you can. Some pills can lose their effectiveness if they are ground or released too early.[21]
  • Don't think about it, just swallow. You can also have someone else chug the same drink and it will be a chugging contest, (But only the person who needs that pill would chug with the pill).


  • Do not take real pills for practice or for fun.
  • Keep all pills out of the reach of children. Many special flavors have been created to make pills taste better. Children often seek out these tastes, consuming them for an accidental overdose. Never tell children that pills are candy.
  • Always check with a doctor or pharmacist about swallowing a pill with anything but water. There are many medications which lose their effectiveness, or even create unpleasant side effects, when mixed with certain beverages or foods. Some antibiotics, for example, should never be mixed with dairy products.
  • If you still have severe difficulty swallowing pills, you may have dysphagia, a swallowing disorder. Ask your doctor about it. It's important to remember, however, the people with dysphagia also have difficulty swallowing food, not just pills.
  • Do not take a pill when lying down. Sit or stand up.[22]

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Taking Pills and Medicine