NEWS | January 8, 2021

Six tips for teaching kids to swallow pills

(SACRAMENTO)

For many children, taking medicine is literally a tough pill to swallow.

Child life specialist Marisa Martinez teaches children how to swallow pills.  Child life specialist Marisa Martinez teaches children how to swallow pills.

At UC Davis Children’s Hospital, child life specialists teach kids this new skill of swallowing pills, when liquid medicine and chewable tablets are not options.

“Here at the hospital, we practice using different sized candy in jello or coat a candy with a spoonful of applesauce, pudding or even butter,” said certified child life specialist Marisa Martinez. “This helps children remove the focus of taking a pill and think they are just swallowing jello.”

The UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy team typically start with Nerds and work up with each successful swallow to Tic Tacs, M&Ms, then Mike and Ikes if they need a pill that large.

The team also recommends the following six tips for swallowing pills, as adapted from Ramsey Pediatrics:

  1. Sit up or stand up straight.
  2. Don’t talk.
  3. Breathe through your nose.
  4. Gargle fluids before you begin swallowing
  5. Drink some of your preferred liquid or swallow your preferred food (jello, pudding, etc.) before taking the pill.
  6. Swallow twice to make sure the pill goes down.

“Practice makes perfect. Swallowing ‘pretend’ pills over and over can help kids become more confident,” Martinez said.