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Does Your Child Refuse to Take Medicine? Some Helpful Tips

Laurie J Rollins and Anita Nayar Gallay Getting your child to take medicine when he or she is sick is no easy task. And trying to reverse a bad experience is even more difficult. Whether your child needs to take a short-term antibiotic for a bacterial infection or a drug therapy for something more serious over a longer period of time, it's important that the experience be a positive one.

Sometimes, even just letting your child take control of his or her medicine is enough to get it down. Try giving your child the option of using a syringe or a cup, or letting him or her hold the cup under your supervision.

Below are some other suggestions to help ensure that your child can get the benefit of his or her medicines:

  • One way to help your child take a bad-tasting medicine is to simply avoid the taste buds! Using a syringe, squirt the medicine slowly toward the inside of your child's cheek. This is a great way to make sure that you're giving the whole dose. Squirting medicine toward the inside of the cheek also makes it more difficult for your child to spit it out.

  • Ask your pharmacist to add a special flavor such as bubblegum, strawberry, banana, or grape to your child's prescription or non-prescription medicine. Flavoring is an inexpensive way to improve your child's willingness to take medicine, especially if he or she gets to choose the flavor.

  • Keep your child's medicine in the refrigerator to help diminish the taste. Always check with your pharmacist to see if the medication can be refrigerated.

  • A good tip for getting babies to take medicine is to mix it in with a teaspoonful of breastmilk or formula. Then slowly squirt the mixture with a syringe into their mouths or allow them to suck on the syringe. Try to avoid mixing a baby's medicine in with a large amount of milk because he or she won't get the full dose of medicine if he or she doesn't finish the whole bottle.

  • Sometimes changing the way your child's medicine looks can do the trick. For example, some medicines can be crushed or capsules can be opened and mixed into food like applesauce, pudding, or yogurt. Be sure to check with your pharmacist before changing anything about your child's medicine to make sure the medicine is effective.

  • Some medicines should not be directly mixed with liquid. In those cases, a good option is to have your child drink his or her favorite juice immediately after receiving the medicine. Again, be sure to ask your pharmacist before having your child eat or drink immediately after taking his or her medicine.

The above suggestions are tried-and-true ways to get your child to take his or her medicine more easily. But if these options don't work for you, be sure to let your child's doctor or pharmacist know if your child refuses to take the entire dose of medication that is prescribed.

By Laurie J. Rollins, Pharm.D. candidate, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy Class of 2016; and Anita Nayar Gallay, Pharm.D., Pediatric Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, Georgia Regents Medical Center/Children’s Hospital of Georgia