NHS website

Problems swallowing pills

If you or someone you care for struggles to swallow pills, you should discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist.

10 December 2018

Introduction

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 could also try taking them with something like yoghurt or fruit purée
  • lean forward slightly when you swallow
  • practice swallowing with small sweets or bits of jelly – 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

"Lean forward" technique:

Media last reviewed: 31/10/2017
Next review due: 31/10/2020

"Pop bottle" technique:

Media last reviewed: 31/10/2017
Next review due: 31/10/2020

Important

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

A pharmacist can help if you can't 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: