How to Teach Kids to Swallow Pills – Important Tips

How to Teach Kids to Swallow Pills - Important Tips

Swallowing a pill is like an everyday task that many of us don’t pay heed until the day we have a child who needs to do it. If you’ve ever had to give pills to your child, you know what a difficult task it is. From puking to running away to refusing to open his mouth – you’ve witnessed all of this. Popping a pill or capsule may seem like a trivial task to you, but it’s not the same for kids. However, it’s an important skill, which you should teach your child but patiently.

Why Should Children Be Taught to Swallow a Pill?

Most medicines for kids usually come in either chewable form or in the form of syrup. But then there are medicines which need to be swallowed for them to show the result. In fact, these pills may lose their efficacy or may not remain as potent if they are chewed or crushed. In some cases, having pills in any other form rather than gulping them down as a whole, may even have fatal repercussions. This happens when the medicine is required to work slowly rather than at once and thus these medicines are required to be taken as a whole. Hence, it is important to teach children how to swallow when such needs may arise. With the right technique, patience, and experience, you can get kids to swallow pills with ease!

At What Age Can Kids Swallow Pills Easily?

The age at which a child can swallow a pill can be different or vary from a child to a child. Just the way a baby takes his own sweet time to get comfortable in chewing and gulping solid food, the same may apply for swallowing pills too. However, at around four years of age when a child is ready to learn new things, you may try teaching this new skill to your kiddo! Make sure your child isn’t cranky or sick when you begin teaching him. You can use your kid’s favourite food items to teach him how to swallow pills.

How Can Parents Teach Their Child to Swallow a Pill?

Training your child how to swallow a pill is more or less like potty training only because just like potty training you can tell your kid what to do but eventually he will have to do it on his own. Let your child exert his own control over the process as forcing or heavy-handed pressure may often prove to be futile. Here are some tips on teaching your kid about the right way to take a medicine or pill:

  • Help your child to moisten his mouth by gulping down a few sips of water or any other liquid before giving him
  • You can place the pill in the front part of the tongue and tilt your child’s head backwards before swallowing the pill. Alternatively, you can place the pill at the end of the tongue and ask your child to tuck his chin into his chest before gulping down the medicine.
  • Giving some liquid in the mouth and gargling with it for a few seconds before gulping down may prove to be helpful in swallowing the pill.
  • Another trick that works wonders is by placing the pill on your child’s tongue right before he is about to swallow a big morsel of food, such as bread, crackers, etc.
  • One of the best ways to get your child to swallow food is the ‘big gulp’ method, which involves placing the pill on the child’s tongue as he takes a big sip of liquid. Ask him to swirl around liquid in his mouth for a few seconds before finally swallowing everything together.
  • You can also hide the pill in any kind of soft food such as fruit purees, sauces or yoghurt. However, crushing the pill is not recommended until or unless your doctor advises so. But you should try this trick only if the pill you’re giving is small in size or your little one might end up choking on it.
  • Taking the help of the ‘pill cup’, which has a small enclosure that holds the pill as your child gulps it down with liquid or a ‘pill glide’, which is a flavoured spray that may help your kid to swallow the pill, also works fine.

Sometimes kids make efforts but still won’t succeed in gulping down the pill. You need to ask your child to keep his tongue relaxed as he tries to swallow the pill. If that does not work, the above tips should help!

A child swallowing pill with water

What If Your Child Struggles While Taking the Pill?

Here are some tips that may help your child if he is struggling while taking the pill:

  • Be playful about the entire process and do not put any pressure on your kid. If your kid keeps struggling, be empathic towards him and smile. Ask him to relax and let him know that he is not required to try it unless he is ready to do so.
  • Practising with your kid’s favourite food is something that may prove to be helpful and also become a delightful experience for the child. Try with small candies using the ‘big gulp’ method.
  • Help your child practice guzzling and gulping his favourite drinks with big gulps as he puts his head backwards and his chin up.
  • If your child is not comfortable, do not force him. Your child may show readiness or be comfortable with the entire process when the time comes until then be patient.
  • Reward him whenever he tries to make an effort, even if he fails. This will encourage him to try harder the next time.
  • Try different positions such as tilting the head backwards, tilting the head sideways, or tilting in towards the chest.

When to Call a Doctor

Patience and practice may help you sail through the process of teaching a child to swallow a capsule, tablet or pill; however, there may be times when you may have to seek medical intervention or need to call your doctor. Here are some cases where a doctor’s assistance may prove to be helpful:

  • If your child has had bad experiences earlier with swallowing pills, which may have resulted in vomiting or gagging.
  • If your kid gets all stressed out or anxious when it comes to trying new things.
  • If your kid has any kind of developmental delays, which may include motor problems (oral) or behavioural problems.

In case your kid falls under any of the categories mentioned above or is facing any kind of issues, you should consult a paediatrician for the same. The doctor may suggest alternative ways of administering medicine to the child.

Whenever you wish to teach your child about swallowing pills, make sure it is a stress-free experience. If your child does not show readiness, do not force him. Try again when you think he is ready and he will swallow pills without throwing a fuss.

Also Read:

How to Give Medicines to Your Child
How to Teach Your Child to Chew Food
Nebulization for Babies and Children