Trouble Swallowing Large Capsules And Tablets

Answered by Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Our pharmacist answers the latest question regarding what to do if you are having problems swallowing large capsules or tablets.

Question

I am having trouble swallowing a lot of my medications. Are there other options for me or possibly any alternatives to tablets and capsules?
By Derek - Edited

Answer

Many people have trouble swallowing medication, even if it is not particularly large or bulky. In fact, it has been reported that up to 30% of people have trouble swallowing tablets and capsules. That's a lot of people! Fortunately, there are quite a few options for people that are having issues.

Many drugs are available in multiple formulations and the drug you are taking may be available in a liquid formulation. If the drug isn't available in a liquid formulation, your pharmacist may be able to compound or specifically make something for you that is easier to administer. Also, many medications can be either broken, open or crushed. Always check with your pharmacist first however to make sure the medication you take can be altered. Most extended release formulations of medications cannot be broken.

Below are some tips that may help with swallowing medication:

  • Swallow with a different head position: Try tipping/leaning your head forward. This is called the "lean-forward" technique. People very often will tilt or swing their head back which actually constricts the airway, making swallowing more difficult. To use the "lean forward" method, put the medication in your mouth and take a small sip of water without swallowing. Tilt your chin towards your chest as this will open up the airway. Swallow the medication while your head is in this position.

  • Products Designed To Help Swallowing: There are many products on the market that may help ease swallowing of medications. These products include the Oraflow pill swallowing cup and PillGlide. Take a look around and see if anything looks as though it could work for you.
  • ​Mix The Medication With Food: Placing medication in certain foods can ease swallowing. Examples of foods to try this method with include applesauce, thick soups, chewed bread, mushed vegetables, honey, peanut butter, yogurt etc...
As you can see, there are a variety of options to aide you in swallowing difficulties. Try not to get too discouraged when you have problems and know you are not alone! There is not a one size fits all approach and certain techniques may work better than others. If you are having difficulty taking your medication, remember that there are always other options that may be better suited for you. Please talk to your doctor or pharmacist and get the help you need!

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor Of Pharmacy degree in 2010.

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