Can a Pill Get Stuck in Your Throat?

Can a pill possibly get stuck in the throat? Everyone has had at least one bad experience with a pill stuck in their throat and that’s sometimes enough to instill fear of swallowing pills. Some people develop an actual phobia of swallowing pills if they get one stuck in their throat once or twice, even if it’s not actually stuck but just a feeling. If this has happened to you too, then you might want to read on and find out what exactly happens when you swallow a pill or a tablet or a capsule and why you get the feeling it seems to be stuck in your throat.

Is it possible to swallow a pill wrong?

Yes, it’s actually possible to swallow a pill wrong. It happens a lot to people who have dysphagia, which is a medically recognized difficulty with swallowing things like pills, food or liquids. It also happens to people who do not have a physical problem, but may experience fear or anxiety over swallowing pills caused by an unpleasant past experience. Some may even develop a phobia of swallowing pills of any kind. And it can also happen to regular people without a physiological or psychological cause.

Pill stuck in throat

What happens when you swallow a pill wrong?

What happens when you swallow a pill wrong is said pill doesn’t go down smoothly. There are several possibilities actually. For one, the pill may stick to the tongue or back of the throat and refuse to go down from there when you attempt to swallow it, or it may go down after swallowing the water which poses a choking hazard and may result in coughing as a protective mechanism to expel it. A pill like a capsule may rearrange itself in a horizontal position which could make swallowing difficult. Swallowing a pill wrong is more likely if the pill is big, if it’s a hard-shelled pill type, if it’s capsule or disc-shaped pill with blunt edges, or if your throat is dry.

But the key word is ‘swallow’! Because you do swallow the pill, even if it may feel like it’s stuck in your throat. So long as you can get air in, be reassured that you’ve swallowed the pill. It’s just that you’ve swallowed it wrong and are now left with the feeling of having a pill stuck in your throat. But it’s not actually there – it’s just a feeling.

If a pill were to go down the wrong pipe, there would be clear signs something was wrong such as violent, incessant coughing, not being able to get any air in and your face getting red or blue because of the coughing and lack of air. If you can breathe, and talk, then those are clear signs the pill went down and it went down the right pipe. It just went down wrong. Pills that are too big or hard-shelled pills with blunt edges like some disc-shaped or oval-shaped tablets tend to push into the throat lining, especially if the throat is dry, causing immediate pain and a residual feeling of a pill stuck in the throat. This feeling may last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

Can a pill get stuck in throat

Can a pill get stuck in your throat?

While it’s rare, it’s technically possible for a pill to get stuck in the throat. However, it’s more likely for food, things like popcorn or peanut bits, fish bones or something else, to get stuck in your throat rather than a pill. Pills are usually manufactured with the purpose of being swallowed relatively easy in mind, so it’s uncommon to have one get stuck in your throat, albeit possible. Most of the time it’s just the feeling of having a pill stuck in your throat due to the pill having pushed against or even scratched the mucous lining of the throat, which happens if you have a dry throat, for example. The biggest concern associated with something like this is obstruction of the airways and suffocation. See here my personal tips on how to swallow a pill.

How to swallow a pill stuck in your throat

If a pill does actually get stuck in your throat, which is rare, it is possible you will experience difficulty breathing. At that point, a gag reflex and/or coughing reflex should kick in automatically. These are protective reflexes meant to help dislodge what may be stuck in the throat and is potentially going down the wrong pipe, obstructing your airways. Give in to the reflex and cough as hard as you can. If you can’t breathe at all and coughing doesn’t help, signal for someone to help you so they may perform a Heimlich maneuver on you. If there isn’t anyone there, perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.

It’s a good idea to stay on top of things by watching tutorials on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on other people and yourself or, even better, take a first-aid course. Please remember that obstruction of the airways and subsequent lack of oxygen causes a person to quickly become unconscious which is why it is vital to seek help immediately if you can’t breathe at all after trying to swallow a pill.

If you can breathe and talk well, but still have the feeling a pill is stuck in your throat, then it’s likely just a feeling. A sort of residual physical sensation caused by the pill being swallowed wrong and scratching or hurting the throat lining. At this point, it helps to keep hydrated until the sensation goes away by itself. It may take hours or days, but it should fade away.

This post was updated on Saturday / September 12th, 2020 at 8:18 PM