Is My Patient Ready?
How do I know if my patient is ready to learn how to swallow pills?
Are there obvious signs that will help me recognize if she is ready?
And, if she is not ready, how will I know?
You may have asked yourself these and other questions about teaching your young patient to swallow pills but never received adequate answers. The following questions can serve as your guide to help you decide if your patient is ready to be taught to swallow pills and to advise the parent accordingly.

Q: What are the signs of readiness for teaching my patient to swallow pills?
A: If the young patient can follow instructions and is able to manage swallowing ‘chunky’, textured foods (e.g. oatmeal or chunky applesauce) without gagging or choking and swallows mouthfuls of liquid without it spilling from her mouth or causing coughing/gagging, she should be ready to learn pill swallowing.

Q: Is there a specific age when a child should be able to swallow pills?
A: There is no one answer, but generally speaking, a toddler is too young. Most school age children should be ready, especially by age 6 or 7, although some are ready sooner, some later.

Q: What are some red flags that my patient may not be able to swallow pills?
A: You need to ask yourself if your patient has any other problems that could impede his ability to learn to swallow pills such as:

If your patient has one or more of these red flags, talk to your patient’s parent about referring the child to a therapist.

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