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Expert Q&A

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Can I dissolve iron pills in water for easier swallowing?

Asked by Dorothy Scott, Washington

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I have trouble swallowing pills. I'm pregnant and just found out I'm anemic, so I have to take iron tablets. Can I dissolve the iron tablets in water to make them easier to take, or will that weaken or negate the effect of the iron? Can I dissolve my folic acid tablets in water, too, or will those not be effective either?

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Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thank you for your question. Since I don't know the exact formulation of your medicines, I will respond about crushing pills in general. Many children and adults have trouble swallowing pills, especially if they are large or uncoated. Certain medicines should not be crushed before taking, however. These include time-released capsules and some enteric-coated medications -- those formulated to pass through the stomach and disintegrate in the intestines -- (as well as some noncoated medications). If crushed, the medicine may not work correctly and may even cause harm (such as irritate the stomach lining or be released too quickly into the bloodstream) so be sure to consult your pharmacist before crushing and taking any medication.

Crushed pills can also taste bitter, because they are designed to be swallowed whole. You may wish to ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if there are liquid or chewable versions of the medications that you can take, as these are easy to swallow and are often flavored to mask the taste of the medicine. Keep in mind that some medicines (including iron) can stain the teeth, so it may be helpful to mix them with a liquid, sip through a straw, and brush your teeth right afterward.

Finally, there are several pill-swallowing aids on the market that may help with your situation. These include specially shaped cups as well as gels or sprays that make the pills slippery and easier to swallow. If your pharmacist says it is OK to mix the pills with food, you can also hide them in yogurt or applesauce and slurp them down.

Good luck!

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