I have always been a proponent of teaching children to swallow a pill. In fact, I think I taught my boys to swallow a pill before they were 5 years old, mainly because I was tired of trying to find the measuring cup or syringe for the liquid medicine, which often didn’t go down “like spoon full of sugar”, even though we would sing the song during dosing.
By the time one child had learned to swallow a pill the other two boys, as competitive as they were, decided that they too could do it, even the 2 year old. So, based on that experience I have been encouraging young patients to swallow pills, and even teaching them in the office with my stash of mini M&M’s and Tic Tacs! I also know that if you wait too long it becomes a huge ISSUE.
Well, who knew that someone would actually study “pediatric pill swallowing”? In an article just published in the May issue of Pediatrics the authors looked at different pill swallowing interventions. They found that up to 50 % of children were unable to swallow a pill. Problems swallowing pills included a variety of reasons including fear, anxiety and intolerance to unpleasant flavors.
The authors reviewed 5 articles published since 1987 which found that behavioral therapy, flavored throat sprays, specialized pill cups and verbal instruction with correct head and tongue positioning all helped children to swallow pills. They also found that pill swallowing training as “young as 2 years helped increase the likelihood of ease of pill swallowing”.
So, like many things....jump in with your young child and master the art of pill swallowing sooner than later. It will make everyone’s life easier.
Last caveat, I always tell my patients who are older “non-pill” swallowers, “you cannot possibly operate a motor vehicle if you can’t swallow a pill”! This is usually a huge motivator for the “late swallower” and they conquer the challenge.