Medicines: Helping Children Swallow Pills
Many children have difficulty swallowing pills and capsules. The best way to handle this problem is to avoid it. Whenever your child's healthcare provider prescribes a medicine, simply request the liquid form. Almost all medicines have a liquid form. The advantage of pills is that they can hide the flavor of medicines that taste bad. If your child has pills to take, here's what you can do to help:
- First: The easiest approach is to convert the solid medicine to a liquid form. Empty out the capsules or crush the pills. This approach is acceptable unless the product is a slow-release or enteric-coated pill. (Check with your healthcare provider if you are uncertain what you can do.)
- Second: Pills can be crushed between two spoons. Crushing is made easier by first moistening the pill with a few drops of water and letting it soften for 15 minutes. Then add them to something that tastes good, such as a spoon of chocolate syrup.
- Third: Since capsules usually contain medicines with a bitter taste, the contents will also need to be mixed with a sweet substance, such as chocolate syrup or Kool-Aid powder.
- Fourth: What should you do if your child has to swallow a pill or capsule? Place it far back on the tongue and have your child quickly drink water or Kool-Aid through a straw. If your child concentrates on swallowing (even gulping) the liquid, the pill will follow the liquid downstream without a hitch. Splitting the pill into halves or quarters also helps.
- Fifth: Let's prevent this pill-swallowing crisis from ever happening again. If your child is over 7 or 8 years old and unable to swallow pills, he should practice this skill when he's not sick or cranky. Start with small pieces of candy and progress to M & M's. Try to use these substances that will melt if they get stuck. If necessary, first coat them with butter. Use the liquid and straw technique. Once candy pellets are mastered, pills will usually be much easier.
- Finally:Some normal children can't accomplish pill-swallowing until age 10, so be patient.
If you have other questions about swallowing pills, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.