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Learning to swallow tablets (or capsules)



Learning to swallow tablets can be challenging as we teach children not to swallow anything until it has been completely chewed and to not put strange objects in their mouths. It is only natural that they find it difficult to swallow a capsule. 

Some people have narrow throats, sensitive palates or a very strong “gag reflex”, which can initially make swallowing larger objects uncomfortable. Medication in a liquid form comes in contact with the taste buds much more quickly than medicines within capsules. So if your child can swallow capsules, they may prefer to try that. This list has also been compiled based on discussions we have had with our customers and is by no means complete. Through experimentation this list will continue to grow. Please remember this is a broad list and if you or your child is on a restricted diet some of these options may not be suitable.

Keep Sessions Short

Try as best you can to make this exercise fun and relaxed. Remember to be flexible and to keep the sessions short so your child does not become too tired and stressed.

Start small

Try to start with something small and soft, which is easy to swallow, for example a green pea (frozen or thawed), or a cranberry. Slowly increase this to a larger size, such as a blueberry or cut up strawberry. This will help your child learn to become comfortable swallowing capsules whole.

Let Them Help

Give your child some control of the exercise. Go shopping together for the food and let them choose the fruit (i.e. the pretend capsule). If the child is old enough allow them to help you wash and cut up the fruit into small pieces, if needed.

Introduce a Catalyst

If swallowing even a small piece of soft fruit is too difficult initially, try placing the small pieces of fruit into yoghurt, or a thick fruit puree. From here, encourage your child to swallow the pieces of fruit without chewing. Suggest to the child that this may be done more easily if the piece of fruit is moved toward the back of the throat.

You may also be interested in reading our article on ‘Effective Techniques for Masking Medicine Flavour’ 

Repeat The Process

Once the child can swallow small pieces, demonstrate cutting them a little bit bigger and repeat the process. When your child has mastered the average capsule-sized piece of fruit, thin out the yoghurt or puree slightly, or try using a milkshake (the milkshake can be based on almond or rice milk etc if your child is following a dairy free diet), encourage the child to practice with this. Continue until your child feels comfortable with this, then you might like to change to swallowing with water.

Experiment with Capsules

You can purchase some empty capsules from Kingsway (in a range of sizes), for your child to practice on each day with water. Allow your child to handle the capsules; pull them apart or chew on them. They may even like to fill them with some of their cut up fruit pieces. When your child is swallowing the capsule focus their attention on swallowing the mouthful of water (or juice etc) rather than focusing on swallowing the capsule.

Have Water Handy

Always have something, even if it is just water, on hand for your child to drink after swallowing the capsule. This will help to rinse the taste out of their mouth. You may also like to have your child suck on a frozen fruit cube/stick (homemade preferable) or something else cold before taking the medicine. This will help to ‘numb’ the taste buds.

Keep Their Head Tilted Back

Remember that capsules float when in liquid; so when swallowing keep the head tilted forward. This will keep the capsule closer to the throat. Also, tablets sink when in liquid; so when swallowing keep the head tilted back. Try to ensure your child swallows the compounded capsule/s at a similar time each day to keep in practice.

Make Sure They Have Eaten

Remember that some compounded formulations should not be given on an empty stomach, such as those which contain zinc, as they may cause nausea.

Make It a Positive Experience

Give plenty of praise for all your child’s accomplishments along the way. Even little steps are important! If there is little progress, talk with the medical practitioner; DO NOT DISCOURAGE THE CHILD.

Keep Capsules Out of Reach

Remember to always keep all medicines out of reach of children. We don’t want them practicing their new capsule swallowing skills when you are not around!!!

I hope these have been helpful. Please feel free to contact us if you have any more great ideas so I can share them with our other customers.



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