5 Tips for Teaching Children to Take Medicine –
Without Tears or Tantrums
Most children in the hospital need to learn to take medicine—often liquids or pills. To prevent tears or tantrums, it’s best to establish cooperation early. Your Child in the Hospital: A Practical Guide for Parents by Nancy Keene contains oodles of suggestions for teaching children to take medicine.
- Add a flavor. Many pills can be chewed or swallowed whole without taste problems. But, if a liquid medicine tastes bad, you can ask the pharmacist about flavorings that can be mixed with the medication (e.g., FLAVORx®). These prescription flavorings come in many flavors that kids like, such as cherry, bubblegum, or orange.
- Put the pills in gel caps. Ask your child’s nurse or doctor for gel caps and pack bad-tasting pills inside (break them up if necessary). Gel caps are very easy to swallow and prevent children from tasting the pills. They come in many sizes, and #4s are small enough for a three- or four-year-old to swallow.
- Use a chaser. Let your child choose a favorite drink to help swallow a pill or gel cap. Ask the doctor or pharmacist first, though, because some pills should not be taken with certain liquids (e.g., milk, grapefruit juice).
- Mix with a favorite food. Allow your child to mix whole or crushed pills with other food, such as chocolate chips, pudding, applesauce, jam, frozen juice concentrate, ice cream, or other favorite food. Ask the doctor or pharmacist first, though, because some pills should not be crushed (e.g., time-release pills).
- Squirt that syringe. Let your child experiment with ways to take liquid medication, such as sipping from a dosing cup with a funny face drawn on it or squirting from a syringe into the mouth followed by a drink of a favorite beverage.
I wanted Katy (3 years old) to feel like we were a team right from the first night. So I made a big deal out of tasting each of her medications and pronouncing it good. Thank goodness I tasted the prednisone first. It was nauseating—bitter, metallic, with a lingering aftertaste. I asked the nurse for some small gel caps, and packed them with the pills that I had broken in half. I gave Katy her choice of drinks and taught her to swallow the gel caps with a large sip of liquid.