Doing the joy dance (or: popping pills)

It might seem like a small thing, especially to an adult who does it all the time, but for my son, swallowing pills has not been possible … until yesterday. This might seem like a small thing, but the daily number and volume of bad smelling, bad tasting liquids we’ve had to ask him to consume since December has been extremely challenging for all of us. My son’s stamina and determination have been tested daily. As have my patience and parenting skills.

When my son was able to substitute pills for one of his most distasteful fluids, it was like a weight was lifted over all our shoulders. After he swallowed the last pill for the evening, when we were still cheering, he said to me, “mommy, I feel like I am flying!” I felt like I was flying too. I had promised him a dance of joy and that I would dump the liquid the pills replaced down the drain, and I treated him to song and dance as I poured along with the whole family’s cheers.

Sometimes the small things are so big! And sometimes the big things are so physically small (like a pill)!

So how did we do it? About a month ago a colleague of mine told me that his family had needed to teach the kids pill swallowing fairly young. He recommended feeding them slivers of ice of progressively larger sizes. I had tried it and revisited the topic on and off since. My intrepid 4 year old mastered the art of pill swallowing on the first day we tried it. But my 6 year old found it more difficult. He could handle the ice, but he is so sensitive to the world around him that the addition of a new smell, taste, or texture threw him off.

Last night, was his second night of chelation. On chelation nights, he has to drink a liquid that is green. I make it by mixing 2 teaspoons of chlorella powder with juice. It mostly tastes like juice, and my son bravely commented last week that if he just kept swallowing he only got the bad aftertaste once, at the end. But for my son, the color, the smell, the fact of the addition dominate anything else, and this proved to be a huge source of motivation for him: The alternative is to swallow 7 very small green pills.

After one sip, he asked me to bring out the ice. I’ve started using flavored ice (frozen juice) to help make it more similar to pills. I always remind him to place it far back on his tongue and try not to move it — just take a sip and swallow it all together. He had no trouble with the ice, and asked to try a pill, but twice he spit it out with no success. Then I remembered something that has worked for generations of dog owners — hide the pill. I thought it might be too big, but I buried it in some flavored rice we had for dinner and told him to just swallow without chewing. He amazed us all when he succeeded. We tried two or three times before number two went down. By now everyone was cheering. I prepared the third pill and placed the remaining 4 on the table so he could see how little was left (compared to the drink). By the 7th, he didn’t need rice or anything else. As the capstone, I gave him a more traditional pill (oval, with powder inside instead of a tiny round tablet). He downed it too.

My 4 year old (who is on antibiotics because she too now has a possible case of lyme — more on that later) then decided to swallow all her probiotics. The biggest one she had trouble with, until I suggested taking a bigger sip of water, and then it went down no problem.

The Olympics are going on this week, and day after day we can watch athletes achieving their personal bests exactly when it most counts. My children may not be competing in the Olympics, but for our family, last night’s triumph was just as inspiring.

2 thoughts on “Doing the joy dance (or: popping pills)

  1. I have never even TRIED this with my 5 year old. I had no idea it was even physiologically possible for them swallow pills. I had read something once that kids under 6 can’t really do it. You have inspired me to try having him swallow.

    We usually put things in yogurt if they don’t have colds/coughs or in hemp ice cream if they do (or if they are colored). I tried doing that with bright yellow CO Q10. Note to self: NEVER AGAIN.

    Thanks for inspiring me!

  2. We use yogurt too, and the awesome and easy to make banana ice cream (freeze old bananas and then run them through a juicer).

    Hope it works!

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