Pills are everywhere in our modern life – even natural supplements tend to be in pill or tablet form. It’s important that children know how to swallow pills because they may have to take a medicine that comes in tablet form.
The following are some tips on how to deal with kids who have difficulty swallowing pills, tablets or capsules:
Try Treating the Fear First
Fears can often be treated with self-help first. Of course, if your child’s fear of swallowing is intense, provoking feelings of overwhelm or panic, consult a child psychologist – often a short course of treatment can fully resolve the problem. However, if your child is willing to let you help him or her at home, then you might consider a simple intervention that helps many people who have fear of swallowing pills – EFT (emotional freedom technique). This form of acupressure involves tapping on the body while feeling the fear. It is easy to learn and easy to do – you’ll find d lots of “how-to’s” on the internet – just search for “EFT fear of swallowing pills.” There are special demonstrations for children as well. Sometimes, it only takes a few minutes to cure a fear of swallowing pills using this technique. If you prefer, you can take the child to a mental health professional who is trained in EFT or a similar intervention. Again, the professional may be able to solve the problem in just one session, although it sometimes takes longer.
If your child still has difficulty swallowing pills despite your own interventions or that of a professional, consider the possibility of a physiological cause for the problem and ask your doctor to investigate the matter further.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
If your child is trying to conquer the problem at home, keep in mind that he or she is dealing with something that is truly difficult to overcome. Even adults sometimes have a problem with this activity! Be careful not to mock or minimize the problem your child is having. Instead, provide understanding (“I know it’s hard”) and encouragement (“you can do it” ) as they are trying. Celebrate victories with praise and even a small reward for persevering and trying.
Try Alternative Preparations of Medications and Vitamins
Until your child can swallow pills, you can work around the problem. Be careful not to give up, however; fears of this kind do not tend to vanish on their own – avoidance of the issue simply prolongs it. Meanwhile, however, you must still give the child his or her medications. Therefore you need some temporary solutions.
In general, medications for young children are in liquid or chewable tablet form. However, kids may come to need a particular drug that has no kid-friendly formulation. Medications for ADHD for example, are often still in tablet or capsule form. Until your child learns to swallow pills, you can ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if they know of liquid alternatives that you can use, or if there is a way to transform the drug into liquid without losing its potency.
Break It Down
Perhaps the pill is really too big for your child. The good thing is, some pills can be broken down into smaller pieces. Many pharmacies do sell tools for cutting pills neatly, so you won’t have to worry about breaking yours into a pulp. Dividing a pill may mean more pills to swallow, but it’s worth it if it will give your child an easier time.
Or you can grind the pill into powder and add it to a fruit juice. (In the case of capsules, you can simply break open the capsule for the powder inside.) If the pill is tasteless, your child won’t even notice that he or she is drinking medicine. If the pill has a distinctive taste, choose a particularly strongly-flavored drink, such as a fruit concentrate. Note though that you must always ask your pharmacist first of dissolving the pill in liquid will alter its effect on the body.
Dip It or Bury It
If the pill is small enough, you can dip the pill first in peanut butter, ice cream or gelatin. Doing so might help it slide down your child’s throat easier. It will also make the taste of the pill more palatable to a disgusted child.