Sensitive Gag Reflex

Patients may sometimes have difficulty swallowing pills due to a sensitive gag reflex or anxiety about taking pills. The throat works as part of a complex system. If your patient is tense about pill swallowing, the tension will most certainly surface when she tries to swallow a pill and can automatically result in a strong gag reflex. Your patient's emotional state may be contributing to the difficulty learning how to swallow pills.

Encouraging your patient to take a deep breath and holding it before placing the pill in her mouth, might be all that is needed to suppress the gag reflex. Other suggestions include:

There are some more ideas in the Intervention section.

As discussed in the "Alternatives" section, medications can sometimes be prescribed in liquid form instead of pills or capsules. Tablets can sometimes be crushed and mixed with food or beverages. Similarly, capsules can sometimes be opened and mixed with food. However, review the pharmaceutical literature before breaking, crushing or chewing oral medications since these approaches -- though seemingly benign -- can significantly affect the medicine's release, safety, and effectiveness. Refer also to the list of medication terminology which would suggest medicines that may not be altered.

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