From Tablets to Liquid: What Would Work the Fastest?

Browsing the pain relief and cold aisle is enough to give anyone a headache. Maybe you’ve decided you need ibuprofen or an antihistamine, but what form do you select—pills, caplets, liqui-gels? Some are better if you have stomach problems, while others act more quickly. Here’s a quick look at some of the options.


Quick-dissolve tablets

When placed under your tongue, the tablets dissolve and the medication enters your bloodstream through the membranes in your mouth. These are absorbed more quickly than other forms and don’t require you to swallow a pill. They’re also easily portable.

Tongue strips

These flavored strips dissolve quickly and are easily absorbed. Usually more expensive than traditional forms of medication, they too are easily portable.


Flavored tablets break down quickly in your mouth to become a solution that’s absorbed faster in the stomach. They’re a good choice for adults who don’t want to swallow pills and for school-age kids.

Coated tablets

The coating helps tablets go down easier but can delay absorption. For example, enteric-coated aspirin dissolves in the small intestine instead of the stomach, where it could cause irritation. That’s a bonus for sensitive stomachs, especially for people on aspirin therapy for heart health.

Gelcaps or liqui-gels

Soft gelatin capsules typically hold liquid medicine, which may be absorbed more quickly than regular pills. These are easier to swallow than hard pills, but the capsules tend to be bigger.


These adhesives can be applied to the skin to release fast-acting, continuous medication. Most common for smoking cessation and pain relief, they’re helpful if you don’t want to take medications daily, have trouble swallowing pills, or want quick, site-specific relief.

Other factors, including the way a drug is stored, its inactive ingredients, how long your stomach takes to empty, and how acidic the drug is, affect how quickly and how much of a drug is absorbed.