Do you really have a fear of swallowing pills? - GulfToday

Do you really have a fear of swallowing pills?

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Illustrative image.

Illustrative image.

I seem to remember reading in the old days that they would place the pill in a hollowed out tube, put the tube in the horse’s mouth and try to somehow blow a tablet down his throat. Now I don’t know how true this information is. It could just have been a gag by a comedian but it does highlight the challenge vets face when a horse gets sick and needs medicine, especially if that medication is a pill or two.

There are articles galore filled with advice on how to give a horse its medicine, especially if the horse is rather troublesome. Put a hole in an apple and stuff the pill in it and hope that the horse will chew it, if it hasn’t lost its appetite is one piece of advice. Or put the medicine in his feed, again, if the horse hasn’t lost its appetite. In fact, animals in general are given their medication in a similar way.

Some people have a gag reflex and they have a huge challenge when they need to swallow pills. When I was a child, I spent something like an hour with a capsule in one hand and a glass of water in another trying to pluck up the courage to swallow what I recall was a Cod Liver Oil capsule.

I recall being on the verge of putting it in my mouth several times only to stop at the last minute because I couldn’t fathom the idea of something that size going down my throat. Of course, I no longer have an aversion to swallowing tablets now but as a child it was a big problem for me. In fact, it’s a huge problem for many people. It’s the notion of something whole going down their throats that freaks some people out. They swallow food and water but the difference is that these are not solid. Children have a particularly hard time swallowing.

No matter how many slippery coatings pharmaceutical companies put over tablets and change their shape so they are more streamlined, people still have trouble swallowing them.  But I do notice that the aversion to swallowing tablets only happens when the tablets are unusually large, like the cod liver oil tablet I mentioned above. Those things were huge. I reckon that, for obvious reasons, certain medications that have to be taken every day are now much smaller in size, around 3-4mm maximum, to make them easier to swallow.

I’m sure you must also have noticed that essential, must take, everyday tablets are smaller in size compared to supplements which tend to be double or quadruple in size.

But often antibiotics are almost always huge. One leading antibiotic has a length of about 10mm and a width of about 6mm. That is pretty big to have to swallow 3 times a day for a week.

Surveys indicate that 40% of the world’s population have trouble swallowing pills and one in three gag or choke from them. It’s a challenge, therefore, to find innovative ways to encourage someone to take such enormous pills. We hear of people coating them in honey or swallowing them with a tasty drink rather than just plain water. If they’re for children, and the pill can be crushed, some parents mix them in with food, to disguise them so to speak.

But you should never just try and swallow one dry. Also, never pop one into the back of your throat because there is a risk of it going down the wrong way instead of the esophagus. And never tilt your head back when putting it in your mouth in case it rolls down the back of your throat into your windpipe.

So how do you take tablets if you have a fear of them? Firstly, take a deep breath to relax your neck muscles. Lean forward and place the tablet carefully in your mouth and take a drink of water. It might even help if you practice this technique using small sweets like tic-tac or a piece of bread.

If even these steps don’t help, many experts advise putting an ice pole on your tongue to numb your mouth and then try the previously mentioned steps. There is one precaution that needs to be stressed here. If you are in need of medication but are seriously unable to swallow the tablets or capsules, you might be tempted to crush them into a powder. But before pulverising any tablets, you need to speak to your pharmacist to ask if it is okay to crush the tablet or open the capsule to make it easier to take. The reason I say this is because crushing a tablet or opening a capsule may render it ineffective. I say “may” because that may or may not be the case so you do need to double check with your pharmacist. 

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