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What Happens If You Swallow Pills Without Water?


Do you ever swallow pills without water? If so, you’re not the only one. Many people have popped an aspirin or ibuprofen without filling up a glass first at some point in time. Whether it’s because you didn’t have access to water at the time or you were simply feeling too lazy to get it, we’re pretty much all been in a similar situation. But if you make a habit of swallowing pills without water, it can be bad for your health.

Should you swallow pills without water?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should ideally be taking your oral medications with a full eight-ounce glass of water. If you usually just take a sip, chances are, it’s not enough. And if you don’t drink enough water — or any water at all — with your pills, you can cause some serious throat irritation. 

Certain meds taken by mouth can even cause tissue damage if they remain in contact with the lining of the esophagus for too long, according to the Mayo Clinic. This damage is known as esophagitis, which is an inflammation that can cause painful and difficult swallowing as well as chest pain. If left untreated, esophagitis can lead to complications such as scarring or narrowing of the esophagus. 

Just a few medications that have been linked to drug-induced esophagitis include antibiotics and pain-relieving meds such as aspirin and ibuprofen. And what’s one of the most common reasons for drug-induced esophagitis? You guessed it: Swallowing one of these pills with little or no water.

Can a pill get stuck in your throat?

In case you’re wondering, it is also possible to get a pill stuck in your throat by not drinking enough water. According to Healthline, this is usually not a medical emergency, but it can still lead to some bad coughing and pesky irritation — neither of which are pleasant. Plus, it goes without saying that it’s never worth it to risk choking — even if the chances of that happening are slim.

But let’s say you swallow the pill “just fine” without the water: no coughing, no irritation, nothing. Does that mean you’re in the clear? Not so fast. The Cleveland Clinic reports that in some cases, forgoing water while swallowing pills can actually prevent your medicine from working properly and doing whatever job it’s supposed to do. Who the heck wants that?

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