If you are able to swallow pills but find it difficult, the following tips will help:
- take a sip of water before putting the pill in your mouth, and drink more water after putting the pill in as well
- do not lift your chin up as you try to swallow - this actually makes it harder. If anything, push your chin down into your chest a little while swallowing (called the "lean forward method" in this article, which has other tips as well.)
- if you are cutting the pill to swallow two small halves, try not doing that - the rough edges of a cut pill add to the difficulty substantially. You may not believe the larger whole pill will be easier to swallow, but it often is
- ask your pharmacist if you can dissolve the pill in water or mix it in with applesauce or pudding
If you cannot swallow pills at all, you can learn to do so. (This literature review found 5 studies that all showed children can be taught to swallow pills.) Here is what worked for me. Start by buying some candy that mimics pill shape. Skittles, M&Ms, or the like are good choices - they have a slightly hard and slippery coating that makes it easier. M & M's have a "mini" that is very small and a good one to start with. Choose a candy you like to eat. If you're trying to swallow it and failing, you can always just chew it. (For a small child, I had great success with putting out 5 candies and saying "once you swallow one whole, the rest are yours to chew.")
Every day, try to swallow one of these candies using the tips above. When you can consistently swallow one mini at will, try moving up to the regular size M & M or Skittles. If you can do this then you can take the majority of pills, though ones without a smooth coating will be more difficult. Painkillers like Advil and Tylenol all come in a coated version that is easier to swallow. Many prescription pills are smaller than an M&M or a Skittle, so you will have won most of the battle at this point.
If you have a large pill that you need to take, you can work your way up to it by practicing with vitamins, which come in a variety of sizes and are safe to take every day. Once you have learned to take a large pill, the skill will stay with you and be useful for decades to come.