Q: During a recent stay in the hospital, while swallowing pills I mentioned to the nurse that I had a dread of having a large pill getting stuck in my throat. She explained that the right way to swallow is to lower your chin down toward your chest. That position opens up the esophagus and allows the pill to slide down smoothly. It worked!
A: We have collected several pill-swallowing tricks through the years. The one you describe helps most, but not all, people with a pill-swallowing problem.
Another trick is to take the pill with bottled sparkling water, drinking from the bottle. Sucking at the narrow neck of the bottle helps the pill go down more easily. Some people report that popping the pill in the mouth and then sipping water through a straw helps avoid the gag reflex.
If the pharmacist says it is OK to take the pill with food, a spoonful of applesauce or yogurt also may help the medicine go down. It is important to make sure that pills do not get stuck in the throat, because some can cause serious irritation.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.peoples pharmacy.com. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy @gmail.com.