Is it time to swallow the big pill?

It can be difficult to make the decision to know when the right time is to teach a child to swallow the medicine in a pill. Many parents are used to a liquid form or smashing it to put in applesauce or a drink. However, swallowing a pill is an important skill to learn. Read on to learn more about why it is crucial when it is age appropriate to start, and tips on where to begin.

Healthy Tip Tuesday is brought to you in partnership with Trinity Health Systems.

Why is this important to learn?

  • Some medications are most effective when taken in whole pill form instead of crushed, liquid, or chewed.

When should an adult begin encouraging youth to learn how to take a pill?

  • A person should be at least 4 years old and developmentally ready for this task.
  • There is no pressure to learn this.
  • Wait until it is known there may be a need for a child to take a pill form of medication.
  • Consult with a doctor.

Tips to practice:

  1. Choose a set of 4 to 5 candies that gradually get larger.
    • The first one should be the smallest piece of candy you think your child can handle, while the last one should resemble the size of the pill your child needs to swallow.
      • cake sprinkle
      • mini chocolate chip
      • TicTac®
      • M&M®
      • jellybeans
  2. Encourage them to take a few sips of water to practice swallowing.
  3. Starting with the smallest piece in the set, have them place the candy as far back on the tongue as possible, and tilt their head back only a bit, as leaning too far back can make it harder to swallow.
  4. Then have the child take a sip of water from a cup and swallow the “pill.”
    • Sometimes using a straw to sip the water can help.

Remember practice makes perfect! Everyone should practice at least five minutes a day, and after five successful attempts, your child should be ready to take real medicine. If the child does not succeed on one of the larger candies, there is no shame in just going back down the ladder. Praise their efforts and offer lots of encouragement!

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