I received a question via our iPhone App from 16 year old Steffi. She writes: I take 4 pills a day and can not swallow them! When I try, my tongue pushed the pill to the roof of my mouth. HELP!
I am continually reminded about the number of kids and teens that don't swallow pills, and ask, "does that medication come as a liquid?" Even some of my "adult" patients (code for friends over 40) call and ask if their cholesterol lowering medication is available as a liquid as they just can't swallow a pill! These are people that can run companies!
So...due to that fact, I am convinced, like many things in life, the younger you learn to do something, the easier it is. The old adage, "can't teach an old dog new tricks" is true, young children are excited about trying new things and accomplishing milestones, so put pill swallowing on the list.
I started teaching my own children how to swallow pills when they were around four-years-old. It really came out of necessity when we were on a trip and one of them developed a fever and I did not have any liquid Tylenol with me. Being the novice "parent pediatrician" at the time, I thought I could just "push the pill down their throat", like the dog. Guess what? It doesn't work, as they just gagged and threw up all over me! Lesson learned.
I have found the best way to teach a younger child to swallow a pill is to make it a game. I took the boys to the nearest 7-Eleven where we bought their favorite tic-tacs (coated on the outside like a caplet so won't stick) and then let them pick their favorite sugary horrible never allowed drink. I think it was a Coke or 7-Up at the time (forbidden fruit at home).
We went home with candy and drinks in hand (mini M&Ms also work well) and began the tutorial. It helps to have a little friendly competition too. Show your child how to put the tic-tac on the back of their