Whether we are bedridden or just battling an irritating headache, taking various pills to recover from the situation comes easily to us. It is always advisable to wash the pill down with a healthy gulp of water, though a lot of times either due to laziness or hurry we swallow it dry. That is an incredibly risky practice, according to doctors.
Swallowing a pill with a liquid not only makes it go down easier, but also helps to prevent it from actually getting stuck in your esophagus, which can cause a lot more than discomfort.
"Medications that are lodged in the esophagus are very likely to cause inflammation and irritation," says Jennifer Caudle, a board-certified family medicine physician and assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Rowan
University-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "This can cause a number of symptoms from heartburn and chest pain to esophagitis, or even bleeding and holes."
There are no pain nerves in parts of the esophagus, so even if a pill gets stuck there, symptoms do not always begin right away, which makes it difficult to know if a pill made it all the way down or not. Some people may experience a mild heartburn or chest pain, and dismiss it. Over time, pills that get stuck can break down and erode the delicate tissues of the esophagus, ending up in painful bleeding or even severe dehydration. The situation can become dire.
A study from the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology found that almost any kind of drug can cause an ulcer in the esophagus, but according to Dr. Caudle, a few common medications can cause significant damage when they get stuck, including drugs to treat osteoporosis, antibiotics, and over-the-counter pain relievers. "Pain-relieving medications such as Motrin and Advil are commonly taken without water, and that class of drugs can be notoriously problematic if they get lodged in the throat," she says.
To avoid dangerous complications, it is always best to swallow pills with at least eight ounces of water, according to Caudle. Another good habit to have while swallowing pills is to do it sitting up or standing, never lying down. Also, it is wise to take medicine at least 15 minutes before bed, which gives the pill plenty of time to travel down the esophagus.
"It's not to say that if you don't drink anything, your pill will always get stuck," says Caudle. "But the risk is higher if you don't have a full glass of water."
Caption: A few common medications can cause significant damage when they get stuck. Photo: Collected