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Problems swallowing pills

Lots of people find it hard to swallow pills. There are things you can try to make it easier and a pharmacist can offer advice.

How to make it easier to swallow pills


  • take pills with water – you can take some pills with other drinks or food. Always read the instruction leaflet

  • lean forward slightly when you swallow

  • practice swallowing with small sweets or bits of bread – try bigger pieces as swallowing gets easier


  • do not throw pills towards the back of your throat

  • do not tip your head back too much when you swallow – this can make swallowing more difficult

  • do not crush pills, open capsules or alter your medicine without getting medical advice – this could stop the medicine working properly

Good pill swallowing techniques

"Lean forward" technique:

"Pop bottle" technique:


Do not try these tips if you also have difficulty swallowing food and drink (not just pills), as you might choke. See a pharmacist or GP for advice.

A pharmacist can help if you cannot swallow pills

A pharmacist can advise you about:

  • other versions of your medicine that might be available – for example, you might be able to get it as a liquid or dissolvable tablet
  • crushing, dividing or opening up tablets and capsules – this should only be done on their advice

Causes of swallowing problems

Problems swallowing pills can be due to: