Can't swallow pills
September 9, 2017 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I have a bad cold. I need some relief but despite many, many attempts have never successfully swallowed pills. What is my best choice of OTC medicine to get? No pharmacist available. Usually I get children's meds but any other choice?
posted by Aranquis to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of cold? (What symptoms do you want relief from?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2017

How do you feel about powders, and what symptoms are you looking to relieve? I usually go for Nyquil and/or Theraflu. Won't do the wonders of Sudafed, though those pills really are small (but DO NOT CRUSH them)
posted by jessamyn at 1:57 PM on September 9, 2017

Where in the world are you? I can recommend stuff I can get locally but your 'locally' may not match mine.

My go-to recipe for cold relief is a hot drink with lemon juice, honey and booze. The lemon juice is optional (if you can't get it, just make tea), but the booze is not. Drink while it's hot, and then go to bed.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In USA. Don't consume alcohol in any form
posted by Aranquis at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2017

I do believe Alka Seltzer makes some formulas for colds.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:07 PM on September 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Is theraflu powder drink mix still a thing? That always felt nice on my throat.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Theraflu make a tea. I like the added psychological benefit of a hot drink making me feel better on top of having all the usual cold meds in there.
posted by wwax at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would NyQuil, DayQuil, or other brands/variations of these work for you? They make an alcohol-free liquid preparation that you can get over the counter-- don't buy the regular stuff if you don't consume alcohol.

If you have a sore throat due to post-nasal drip, very warm (almost hot) salt water will help a lot. Pour a mug's worth of boiling water over three tablespoons of salt (sea salt, table salt, kosher salt, doesn't matter) and wait for it to cool to the warmest temp you can stand. Gargle with this as often as you like.

Tradidtional Medicinals "Throat Coat" tea has also been effective for me.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't get a lot of colds but when I do I reach for the Alka-Seltzer Plus. I've been doing it for decades.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Alka Seltzer cold meds. They dissolve in water, don't taste terrible, have some decongestant and painkiller stuff in them, and they don't make me so stupid I can't do anything else.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not a doctor. Nor your doctor. When I have a bad cold I take Robitussin DM (the DM is the important part) and it works wonders for me.
posted by Toddles at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Traditional Medicinals "Throat Coat" tea has also been effective for me.

I find that both the Gypsy Cold Care (their name, not mine) and the Throat Coat teas by them are both great for a cold. Dose liberally with honey and/or lemon juice, if you wish. Very soothing, and both are non caffeinated.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2017

Do they sell Lemsip in the US? Paracetamol, decongenstant and caffeine in a soothing hot lemony drink.
posted by tinkletown at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Strong ginger tea with a spoonful of honey will give you some relief, for sure.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:20 PM on September 9, 2017

It won't help you right this second, unless your pharmacy would happen to have them, but keep an eye out for UrgentRx powders, which can be purchased online.
posted by gudrun at 4:52 PM on September 9, 2017

Gargel with warm salt water for a sore throat. Honey has been shown to be as effective as any cough supresant. Get in the shower and run hot water over your face and try to clear your head out.
posted by 445supermag at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2017

I take cough syrup dm (dextromethorphan) for a bad cough, cough drops with menthol for a mild cough, aspirin or tylenol for achiness and/or fever, Sucrets lozenges for sore throat, Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) is great for congestion - make sure you get the version you have to sign for; much more effective. Nyquil adds Doxylamine succinate for antihistamine/hypnotic. Some preparations add guaifenesin to loosen congestion. Most preparations are some combination of these. If you can only find pills, you can crush them and put them in applesauce. There are usually generic versions that are as good as name brands.
posted by theora55 at 5:00 PM on September 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Real sudafed (pseudoephedrine) works for mucus. The fake stuff (phenylalalalalawhatever) does not work at all.

Theraflu and the alka-seltzer drink tablet thingy work too.

Gargle with salt water is gross, yes, but works like nothing else on a sore throat.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:07 PM on September 9, 2017

Thyme tea—drink it, and gargle it. You can use the thyme that you have in your spice drawer: steep one or two teaspoons in a cup of water. Thyme is a powerful antiviral/antibacterial. I find this works just as well as, if not better than, the salt water gargle, for me.
posted by stellarc at 6:03 PM on September 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

NyQuil for nighttime, DayQuil for daytime. Take them when I have a cold - they don't cure anything because you can't cure a cold (just ride it out) but they do make me feel less terrible. And the NyQuil will knock you right out which speeds up recovery. I personally prefer the capsule form but both come in liquids.
posted by lunasol at 7:08 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

My go-to flu brew:

Boil hot water in electric kettle. While it's heating, add to a mug:

1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch of salt

Pour hot water over ingredients & stir. Cradle mug and sip while the warmth and life permeate your body.

Seconding also Theraflu and Lemsip (British Commonwealth only, I think) powders if you want the OTC meds.
posted by darkstar at 9:30 PM on September 9, 2017

I'm so sorry you're not feeling well.
If it's sinus congestion, get some loose clothes on and get in the tub and take a hot steamy bath. A couple of soaked hot towels draped over your shoulders may also help while in there. Don't be in a hurry to leave. Paper towels will hold up better than facial tissues, or bring a lot of absorbent cloth handkerchiefs.
Sometimes I just stay in there lying on the floor or on a beanbag chair. Two bathrooms help during cold and flu season.
Never underestimate the comfort of a warm blanket straight from the dryer.

I always have lemon drops or other sucking candies (the Sucrets don't work as well for me) and some Vicks VapoRub on a facial tissue that I hold near my nose. A humidifier that has a menthol vapor dispenser will help.
Both hot liquids (chicken soup, hot tea) and popsicles can sooth a sore throat.
I always have the cold compresses in the freezer. Sometimes they help when wrapped in a dishtowel and held against the throat or below the ears.

Currently I'm using Claritin for my allergies (eeeecth) but when my sinuses and Eustachian tubes (ears and throat) go on the warpath I go ballistic with the real Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) from behind the pharmacy counter. I've used it since I was a child, even if it leaves me in a fog for a couple of days. I could take the little "red hot" pills, even back before I could swallow normal-size pills. Do not try chewing them.
posted by TrishaU at 11:03 PM on September 9, 2017

Not a doctor, but I get my share of colds. It depends on the relief you want. For colds I usually go for some or all of the following:
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain, including sore throats (e.g. difficulty swallowing, headache, fever)
  • Guaifenesin (Robitussin or Mucinex) for thinning and loosening the mucus to relieve congestion and make coughing and sneezing easier and more productive.
  • Dextromethorphan (-DM suffixed medicines, like Robitussin-DM or Mucinex-DM, which also include Guaifenesin) for suppressing a cough
  • Pseudoephedrine ("Real" Sudafed) as a nasal decongestant; unlike Guaifenesin, it actually causes less mucus to form in the first place. Unfortunately, due to its role in meth production, it usually either requires a prescription or at minimum needs to be filled by a pharmacy, depending on your state laws. (Don't bother with its replacement, phenylephrine, which has roughly the same effectiveness as a placebo.)
If you have trouble with pills, I'd probably take a liquid Tylenol and Robitussin-DM (or generic equivalent) in your shoes, as Robitussin is sold as a liquid. Also, look for the active ingredients in the Drug Facts, so that you know what you're getting. This is especially important in the case of acetaminophen; lots of cold medications include it in their formulations, and you don't want to overdose on it by taking Tylenol at the same time.
posted by Aleyn at 11:04 PM on September 9, 2017

So sorry you're not feeling well. :(

I used to be completely unable to swallow pills too (still have trouble sometimes), so I would rely on the liquid DayQuil or NyQuil when I had a bad cold.

I have since, however, learned that the best way for me to swallow a pill is to take a half mouthful of liquid first, THEN pop in the pill and then toss my head back and swallow at the same time. Also, the pill can't be too large. Maybe that'll be helpful in the long run!

Good luck and feel better soon. :)
posted by juliebug at 11:59 PM on September 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

There's no need to swallow pills when you have a cold anyway. The only thing that will actually help you get better is sleep. And since pseudoephedrine became such a hassle to buy, the only OTC medicine I've found to consistently relieve symptoms is vapour rub. Put some on, get to bed (ideally propped on several pillows to make breathing easier) and stay there as long as you need to. I would have a shot of vodka as well, but since you don't drink, try hot tea with honey. Feel better soon!
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:28 AM on September 10, 2017

Not answering your question...


Another way to work on the pill thing is to practice with M&Ms and milk. That way, you can practice for a few tries without wasting medicine and also, if you have a choke/gag sensation, you can crunch chocolate and immediately try again instead of having your mouth coated in nasty medicine powder.

Good luck!
posted by milqman at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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