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Tips to help your child swallow pills

Published:Monday | April 20, 2015 | 4:43 PM

Recognising that swallowing pills is a common problem among children, a new study is revealing helpful tips and techniques to aid your child with this necessary but often scary dilemma.

Researchers in the study, which examined previous studies on the issue, found five small studies that included more than 10 children who had trouble swallowing tablets and achieved successful results. They have combined their findings to offer useful techniques to parents.

Two of the studies worked on teaching or showing children how to swallow pills. In one, 17 of 29 children were able to take large capsules for at least six months. The other study reported success for all but one of 23 children. While another study included 67 children who could not swallow pills at first, of these, 47 learned with the use of specific instructions. Nine others succeeded with the instructions plus a small pill cup.

Another study of 11 children helped seven of them to swallow small candies with the aid of a throat spray. While another study taught 33 children the best ways to hold their heads to take pills – after two weeks of practice, all were able to swallow tablets.

The journal Pediatrics published the review article about different ways that can help children swallow pills. The authors looked at all of the research that had been done on this topic since 1987.

The issues highlighted why children tend to have trouble swallowing pills include nervousness, being scared, not liking the taste of pills and not realising the importance of it.

Among the different techniques tried were:

* Changing behaviour by teaching, showing or reminding children the right way

* Using flavoured spray that makes the back of the mouth and tongue more slippery

* Telling the child simple ideas for swallowing pills

* Using a special cup that makes it easier to swallow pills

* Teaching children five different ways to hold their heads

TECHNIQUES THAT WORK

1. Place the pill far back on your child's tongue.

2. Have your child quickly drink water or a favorite drink. Swallow large amounts. This helps focus on the liquid. Drinking quickly through a straw can also help.

3. Keep your child’s head up straight or bent slightly forward. It can be hard to swallow if the head is bent backward.

4. Your child may not like the taste or smell of the pill. Try putting it in something sweet, such as ice cream, applesauce or another soft food.

5. Sometimes it is okay to split the pill in half and give them half at a time.

6. You can also crush it into powder – but it depends on the type of medicine so make sure to check with your doctor first. To turn a pill into powder, crush it in between two spoons. It might be easier to crush the pill if you wet it with a few drops of water and let it soften for five minutes. Once crushed, mix the powder with condensed milk, syrup, yogurt, applesauce or any sweet food that does not need to be chewed.

7. Capsules that work slowly over time should not be crushed. Instead, ask your doctor if the medicine inside of them can be opened and put into a sweet food. Make sure the food does not need to be chewed.

In all of the studies, these different ways worked well for most of the children. Some even helped children as young as two years old.
According to the researchers, swallowing pills can get easier with practice. However, it is best to practice when your child is not sick or cranky. It helps to teach children to swallow pills before they really need them to treat a health problem. One way to practice is with swallowing candies, starting with a tiny one and slowly moving on to bigger ones. Try to use candies that will melt quickly if they get stuck. You can also try coating them with butter first.
If none of these tips and techniques work, talk with your child's doctor. The doctor might be able to prescribe the medicine in liquid or chewable form.

yourhealth@gleanerjm.com