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7 Un-Fun Health Milestones

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Swallowing a Pill

For years your child has taken liquid medicines, or you've emptied capsules into applesauce and mixed melted pills into oatmeal. But now she needs to take a slow-release or coated pill, and there's no way around it: You've got to help her get it down.

The Ouch Factor Your child might gag as soon as the pill hits her tongue; or she could worry so much about choking that her throat will instinctively tighten.

On-the-Spot Soothers Let her take a few sips before the pill goes in; a dry mouth makes swallowing tougher. "This also reminds her that swallowing is a natural process, one her throat will do automatically if she lets it," says Paul Doering, professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Florida in Gainesville. But forget the widespread advice to toss the head back; that actually closes the esophagus, says Cooper White, M.D., a pediatrician at Akron Children's Hospital. Instead, have her slide the pill to the back of her mouth, slightly dip her chin toward her chest, and take a sip of water. If the pill feels stuck or is going down too slowly, just tell her to keep drinking. It won't take long before that feeling disappears.

Thinking Ahead Ask if there's a choice between a tablet and a capsule, and if so, choose the latter, says Doering. "Capsules float lightly on top of water, while a tablet sinks like a rock on the tongue," he says. It can also help to practice with teeny bits of food. Toronto mom Audrey Ciccone had her son Michael, then 7, wash down grains of rice and then pill-size pieces of apple before moving on to his actual medicine, which he was able to swallow on the first try. Way to go!

Meryl Davids Landau is a mom of two who lives in Boca Raton, FL.

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