Researchers in Calgary have discovered it doesn’t take a spoonful of sugar to make even the biggest pills slide smoothly down tiny throats.
They’ve found that the secret is all in the tilt of the head.
Bonnie Kaplan studied five different positions people can take to make the medicine go down — staring straight ahead, or looking up, down, to the left or to the right.
Pressure in the throat varies depending on which way the head faces. That means just a little turn can make a big difference in how easy it is to send something down the hatch.
“We swallow with our head straight ahead over 600 times a day. And so asking someone to swallow off-centre is a shock,” Kaplan said yesterday. “They’re just so disoriented. It feels so weird, they don’t like it.”
Still, her study showed the straight-ahead method was best for only about a third of adults who tried all five positions.
“That means maybe only a third of us are swallowing the most comfortable position, even when we’re good at swallowing pills.”
Kaplan worked with more than 30 seriously ill children and found that within 14 days all could be taught to take adult-sized pills easily.
Working with tiny candy at first, she taught them tricks to make the pills slide down, including a “duck shake” of the head that makes a pill move back on the tongue before being swallowed.
Over time, the candies were increased in size until they were the size of a large adult pill.