Friday, July 06, 2012

How to swallow that pill

It's come to my attention that although I'm not the only person who struggles to swallow pills, I seem to be the only one who has a great strategy for dealing with it. I came upon this strategy through mixing my knowledge in various areas, and now I'm going to share my secrets.

Mountain biking has taught me to choose my line and then watch it like a hawk. So long as I'm watching it, I'm following it. But the instant I look at that big rock jutting up from the side, I'm going to veer towards it. When it comes to pills, choose your line: don't think about it getting stuck in your throat, or it will.

Yoga has taught me to focus on my breathing and relax the rest of my body. It's easier to swallow when my jaw is not clenched, and I'm less likely to panic if my muscles aren't all tight and ready to spring. If you have trouble relaxing because pills freak you out, I'd highly recommend a few yoga classes to get the hang of breathing.

Rifle shooting has taught me to move slowly, calmly and at the right time. We follow a pattern: slow inhalation, slow exhalation, slow inhalation, slow half exhalation, pause that exhalation to pull the trigger, finish exhalation. It's a countdown and a breathing exercise all in one. Now, instead of pulling the trigger, swallow the pill. Don't ask me why—just try it.

Science has taught me many things that experience can back up. Water that is too cold will make my throat tighten up, making it difficult to swallow. If the pill starts too far back, it will initiate my gag reflex before I even get a chance to swallow it. Sometimes when I can feel a pill jammed in my throat, it's not really there, it just bumped the spot on its way down. This knowledge helps me plan my pill-taking, but it also helps me reason my way out of rising panic.

And now, for the most important step of all…

First aid training has taught me that I should tilt a casualty's head way back during CPR to open the trachea and block the oesophagus. This ensures the air goes into the lungs, not the stomach. But I want the pill in my stomach, not my lungs—how about you? Don't throw the pill back and try to flush it down with a gulp of water. Instead, fill your glass up high so you don't need to tilt your head back, and then tuck your chin down a little and look into the bottom of that glass as you swallow.