20 Tips on Administering Medicine

Going Down Smoothly

Let's face it: No matter how much you beg and plead with your kids, asking them to take medicine is easier said than done. Here are tips to help you win the battle.

  • Mask the bitter taste. When Kathy Mayers's son was 4 years old and had to take a bad-tasting medicine for his reflux, the pharmacist suggested mixing it into a few ounces of caffeine-free Dr. Pepper: "It covers up the taste of almost any liquid," says the mom of two, in Milwaukie, Oregon. If you're going to mix medicine into another drink, such as juice, don't add too much liquid because your child will have to drink the whole thing to get the full dose of the medicine. And talk to your pharmacist before mixing medicine with dairy, such as a drinkable yogurt -- milk can sometimes affect absorption.
  • Mix medicine with soft food. I've put it in applesauce for my boys. Just make sure your child eats all of it.
  • "Chase" medication with a sweet beverage. If your child gets to drink something afterward that she usually isn't allowed to have, she might be willing to take her medicine.
  • Ask your pharmacist to flavor medicine. Choosing the flavor -- such as apple, watermelon, or bubble gum -- helps kids feel in control, leading to less of a fuss.
  • Just cool it. "Medicine tastes much better chilled than at room temperature, so put it in your fridge before giving it to your child," says Guthrie. When Laurene Tennant, of South Huntington, New York, couldn't get her toddler Will to take a bad-tasting medicine, she made small popsicles by mixing it with grape juice in ice-cube trays. The trick worked.
  • Think about what's age-appropriate. For toddlers and babies, syringes and oral droppers usually work better than spoons or cups. If your toddler is under age 2 and under 35 pounds, your pharmacist can calculate the appropriate dosage of children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen in concentrated infant drops, so your kid can take less medicine.
  • Create a relaxing environment. Tennant has also learned that the best way to give medicine to her son is to make sure he's calm beforehand. "I sit him in front of the TV with his favorite video," she says.
  • Consider alternative routes. If you can't get your baby or toddler to swallow her medicine, you may be able to use a suppository. I'm not brave enough to try this, but I've been told it's not as bad as it sounds. On the flip side, if your doctor wants you to use a suppository and you're squeamish too, your pharmacist might be able to mix the ingredients into a gel to rub on the child's body, says Guthrie.
  • Take it slow. Some kids might swallow medicine quickly, but others need time. "I tell Will that he can take a sip of medicine, then a sip of water until he finishes the dose," says Tennant.
  • Use the element of surprise. "I don't make a big deal out of giving medicine," says Jessica Isaacs, of Brooklyn, New York, who has a 23-month-old toddler. "I don't say, 'It's time to take your medicine.' I give it to him when he's not expecting it, like during a diaper change."

When it comes to medicating my kids, I've learned that less is more. Make your child comfortable, relieving pain if she has any, and let her body fight off the infection. And when you're considering using something else, call the doctor first.

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