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Problems swallowing pills

Lots of people find it hard to swallow pills. There are things you can try to make it easier and a pharmacist can offer advice.

How to make it easier to swallow pills

Do

  • take pills with water – you can take some pills with other drinks or food. Always read the instruction leaflet

  • lean forward slightly when you swallow

  • practise swallowing with small sweets or bits of bread – try bigger pieces as swallowing gets easier

Don’t

  • do not throw pills towards the back of your throat

  • do not tip your head back too much when you swallow – this can make swallowing more difficult

  • do not crush pills, open capsules or alter your medicine without getting medical advice – this could stop the medicine working properly

Good pill swallowing techniques

Important

Do not try these techniques if you also have difficulty swallowing food and drink (not just pills), as you might choke. See a pharmacist or GP for advice.

Video: Problems swallowing pills - Lean forward technique

This video shows how to swallow a pill using the "lean forward" technique.

Media last reviewed: 31 October 2020
Media review due: 31 October 2023

Video: Problems swallowing pills - Pop bottle technique

This video shows how to swallow a pill using the "pop bottle" technique.

Media last reviewed: 31 October 2020
Media review due: 31 October 2023

A pharmacist can help if you cannot swallow pills

A pharmacist can advise you about:

  • other versions of your medicine that might be available – for example, you might be able to get it as a liquid or dissolvable tablet
  • crushing, dividing or opening up tablets and capsules – this should only be done on their advice

Causes of swallowing problems

Problems swallowing pills can be due to:

Page last reviewed: 25 September 2020
Next review due: 25 September 2023