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Expert Advice for Getting Your Child to Take Medicine

Whether your child is battling a common cold, allergies, an ear infection, or a chronic illness, chances are you’ll have to give them medicine at some point in their life. The problem is, it only works if they take it. And if that medicine comes in the form of a pill, studies show that half of all kids reject them. 

Kids know every trick in the book when it comes to refusing medicine, and if yours is one of the masters at the art of spitting out, clamping shut, and dropping to the floor, you’re not alone. That’s why Dr. Ravneet Dhaliwal at Night Watch Pediatric Urgent Care in Manassas, Virginia, has compiled this list of expert tips for getting the medicine in your child where it can do its job.

Just a spoonful of sugar

Mary Poppins was onto something. When she sang, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” it was actually based on scientific fact — if that sugar is in the form of a syrup. If you offer your child a spoonful of maple syrup or chocolate syrup right before a spoonful of medicine, the syrup coats their tongue so they won’t taste the medicine. It also helps immediately following the dose by replacing the medicinal taste with something sweet that sticks. 

Hide and seek

This tip works for children as well as pets. As long as the medicine you’re administering will not be altered or lose its effectiveness if crushed, try hiding the pill in their food or pulverizing it and adding it to their drink. Check with Dr. Dhaliwal first to make sure the form of medicine you’re giving can handle that treatment, and then get creative choosing which foods will become the new delivery system.

Choose the flavor

Many liquid prescription medications come in customizable flavors these days. If your pharmacist offers this, you — or better yet, your child — can get your antibiotic in bubble gum, grape, or cherry flavor.

Be calm

Kids pick up on your attitude and behavior. Often, if you’re bracing for a battle, they’ll give you one. Be positive, happy, and calm, and chances are, your child will follow suit.

Rewards work

Some children are reward-motivated, and all they need is a little praise or a minor positive outcome. If this sounds like your child, consider making a medication chart with stickers as a reward for a smooth medication-taking event. You don’t want to go overboard and make the reward outrageous, just a little something to make them associate something positive with their health care routine.

Skip their tongue

Most kids reject medication because of the strong taste, so if you can get the liquid past their tongue and closer to the throat, you can avoid that reaction. A good way to do this is with a medicine dropper. It’s easy to fill and it has graduated lines so you know just how much the dose is. 

Never do this while your child is lying down, as they may choke. A high chair is a good place where you can have some control. Tilt their head back slightly, open their mouth by gently squeezing their cheeks, and release the liquid toward the back of the tongue. A gentle, loving stroke along the throat triggers a swallow.

If you’re still having trouble getting your child to take their medicine, come in to see Dr. Dhaliwal for some expert help. We’re here for you when you need us, by appointment, for urgent care, or on a walk-in basis. If you just need to talk to someone, register for our telemedicine service so you can have a remote, face-to-face conversation that can ease your mind without a trip to the pediatrician’s office.



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