We recommend you thicken the consistency of your liquids to make them safer to swallow. Your speech-language pathologist and/or doctor will discuss which consistency is safest for you.

How Do Thickened Liquids Help Me Swallow?

Liquids move slower when thickened, which makes them easier to swallow. Thickened liquids reduce the risk of liquid going down the “wrong tube” into your trachea and lungs.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between One Liquid Consistency and Another?

These guidelines describe four liquid consistencies.



These liquids include hot and cold beverages (such as sodas, coffee and tea), some soups, Jell-O, and foods that can melt (such as ice cream, sherbet and milk shakes).



These liquids include fruit nectars, maple syrup, eggnog, tomato juice and some cream-based soups. This consistency is similar to an unset gelatin.



These liquids are similar in consistency to bees’ honey.



These liquids are similar in consistency to pudding and require use of a spoon to eat them.

Copyrighted images used with permission of Med-Diet Laboratories, Inc. 

How Do I Thicken Liquids?

Children Ages 1 to 3

  • Use prethickened formulas (Enfamil AR is approximately nectar consistency) and prethickened juices, if your child can tolerate them.
  • Use oatmeal or mixed-grain baby cereal in these proportions:
    • m 1/2-tablespoon cereal to 1 ounce liquid for nectar consistency
    • m 1 tablespoon cereal to 1 ounce liquid for honey consistency

Children Over Age 3

At Gillette, we usually recommend using Thick-It brand food and beverage thickener. Thick-It comes in a powdered form and is available in packets or cans. The amount of thickener you need to reach your recommended consistency varies based on the type and temperature of liquid you want to thicken.

We recommend you follow the directions on the Thick-It package. Put the recommended amount into 4 ounces of liquid and then stir the liquid (DON’T shake it) until the thickener is completely dissolved. This can take up to 5 minutes. Be sure to check the liquid over time, as some thickeners continue to thicken after 5 minutes.

What if the Liquid Is Too Thin or Too Thick?

If the liquid is:

  • Too thin: Add a little more thickener and again allow 3-5 minutes to stir and thicken until you achieve the consistency you need.
  • Too thick: Add a little more liquid and again allow 3-5 minutes to stir and let the liquid settle until you achieve the consistency you need.

Where Do I Buy Thickener?

You can buy Thick-It without a prescription at most drug stores and at Target and Walmart. Sometimes the pharmacy keeps it behind the counter. If you can’t find it, ask a pharmacist for help.

What Should I Do if I’m Still Having Problems?

Tell your doctor or speech-language pathologist if, with your recommended consistencies,
you continue to have problems such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wet, gurgly voice
  • Watery eyes
  • Choking


If you have questions about nutrition or hydration with your recommended diet, talk to your dietician.

If you have other questions or concerns, call Rehabilitation Therapies at 651-229-3900. Ask to speak to a speech-language pathologist about your thickening recommendations.

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team. If you are a Gillette patient with urgent questions or concerns, please contact Telehealth Nursing at 651-229-3890.