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How to Give a Child Medicine Safely

Almost every mom has experienced the dreaded medicine time with a reluctant toddler or child. There are ways to make medicine time less traumatic for your child (and you). When giving medicine to a child, there are also safety concerns to be aware of. The next time your child resists taking medicine, try some of these tips to make the process easier.

Try a new flavor

Many children’s medicines come in a liquid, which can have a terrible taste. Some medicines are flavored, or may have flavoring added by your pharmacist. If that doesn’t work, one trick that might help is to know where the taste buds are located on the tongue. Most of the sense of taste is located on the front and center of the tongue, so try placing liquid medicine more towards the back of the tongue with an eyedropper. Another place to try is between the inside of the cheek and the rear gum, where it can slide down the throat easily.

Cold numbs the taste buds, so it may help to let your child suck on a Popsicle before giving liquid medicine. Mixing the medicine into apple juice or pudding can also help disguise an unpleasant taste.

Learn to swallow pills

Children as young as four can begin to learn to swallow pills, but may not master the skill until they are around seven or eight. Start with small pieces of soft food and let them practice swallowing them whole. Once soft food has been mastered, small, hard foods such as a small ice chip can be used. The ice will melt quickly if it gets stuck. Instruct your child to drink plenty of water afterwards to be sure that the food has gone down completely.

Offer praise

When your child takes their medicine successfully, don’t forget to praise them. Never let taking medicine be negotiable; older children can understand that they need medicine to get better so they can play outside, or whatever activity they are missing out on. Toddlers can be given a choice of which cup to take the medicine from, or which room to take it in. This helps them feel like they have some control of the situation.

Safety tips

Never refer to medicine as candy. This can lead to accidental poisoning. Your child should be sitting or standing calmly to reduce the risk of choking. Be sure to measure doses properly. A teaspoon of liquid medicine does not necessarily correlate to the size of a teaspoon you have in a kitchen drawer. Giving too much or too little, especially in a very small child, can be dangerous, so avoid guessing or estimating. Use the measuring dispenser supplied with the medication or ask your pharmacist for one if you aren’t sure.

Before crushing any pills or cutting them, check with the pharmacist, as some medicines can deliver too large a dose if crushed or cut. If your child is taking an antibiotic, find out whether or not they need to avoid sun exposure, since some antibiotics can increase sensitivity to sunlight. Some medicines must be taken on either a full or empty stomach to absorb properly, so be sure to read all the instructions.

Tell your doctor about any medicines, vitamins, or over-the-counter medicines your child is taking. Don’t forget to notify your doctor about any allergies your child has. Finally, check medicines to be sure that they have not expired, and keep medicines locked in a safe place that is not accessible to children.