Parents have recently asked me a spoonful of questions about how to get their children to take pills or medicine. Let me see if I can provide a few hints that will go down easily.
First of all, be positive when giving medication to your child. If you imply that taking medicine is not a pleasant experience, your child will feel the same way.
Check the flavor of a liquid medicine before you agree to go that route versus a pill. When giving a liquid to a young child, you can use a medicine syringe or dropper. Just squirt the medicine on one side of the mouth to avoid taste buds on the tongue as much as possible.
Giving your child a choice of how to take the medicine may help. Numbing the taste buds with a popsicle or ice chips can reduce any sense of an unpleasant taste. Another idea is to mix the medicine with a strong flavor like chocolate pudding or vanilla yogurt, applesauce or ice cream. (Just ask your child’s health care professional first.)
Pills, for children who can take them, do have their advantages. They don’t taste bad when swallowed – without being chewed – and are easier to take when traveling.
That being said, if you want your child to learn to take a pill, practice before the real situation presents itself. One method is to have them practice with tiny, round pieces of candy or cake decorations. Have them put these in the center of their tongue and then drink their favorite liquid through a straw. As the liquid is swallowed, the pill goes down too.
Work up to something the size of an M&M, or similar-sized candy. Then they’ll be ready for the real thing.
Some children like to play “Beat the clock.” They enjoy having to take the pill against a one- or two-minute timer to show they can do this as quickly as possible.
Praise your child when they master taking pills. Do not criticize them if they have trouble with it. Be matter of fact, yet firm. Avoid a negotiation that could take hours and lead to a stressful situation.
Hopefully tips like these will be better than a spoonful of sugar when making the medicine go down.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.