The Importance of Pill Swallowing Skills

Despite the advancements made in the delivery of new medications, the ability to swallow pills or capsules is an important “skill” that needs to be learned by some patients and applied in some clinical conditions. Difficulties in swallowing medication can sometimes limit available options for doctors and nurses and can significantly weaken patient adherence with medication regimens. Although most adolescents and adults are able to swallow medication in pill, caplet or capsule formulations, a small but significant number of older patients have not mastered this skill. Moreover, the majority of school-age children are not able to swallow pills — either because they have never been expected or asked to do so, or because they were unable to do so previously.

The availability of chewable pills, liquid formulations or beaded capsules that can be “sprinkled” on applesauce has minimized the need for some children to learn to swallow pills. Unfortunately, for some medical conditions, certain medical treatments require a child to swallow a pill or caplet whole. If a child or adult is unable to swallow a whole pill without chewing, then the doctor may have limited treatment options available. In some cases, the inability to swallow a pill may make it impossible to pursue some medical therapies or weaken the actual regimen for completing the medication instructions.

To the extent that difficulties with pill swallowing are common among many children and some adults and can have a profound impact on the quality of medical treatment for a range of conditions, this website should be of considerable interest and help to both professionals and patients.

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