Love these suggestions? Subscribe to the Bringing Up Great Kids newsletter to receive great content like this monthly.
Getting the kids to take their medicine can sometimes be difficult, can’t it? For young children the thought of taking tablets or strange liquids can be deeply unpleasant or scary, and they might not understand why they have to take it.
Koru Kids CEO and founder Rachel Carrell has been having troubles of her own:
"I really struggle with giving my 1-year-old baby Calpol. My older daughter always loved it, but my baby HATES it. He clamps his mouth shut and I can't get any of it in him. If I take the opportunity while he's opening his mouth to cry, not only do I feel like a horrible person shoving it in his mouth, but I also worry I am choking him as he's trying to breathe, not swallow, and it might go down the wrong way. The whole experience is a nightmare and leaves us both really distressed. And also really sticky."
Echo is a free app that helps you manage and order repeat presriptions for you and your kids. Their service includes delivery, but the final step from bottle or packet to mouth can still be difficult. Fortunately, the folks there are full of great advice. Here are their six simple solutions for how to get kids to take their medicine properly.
1. Improve the taste
Most of our taste buds are located at the back of the tongue, so placing the medicine on the inside of your child’s cheek will reduce the taste. For older children, drinking a glass of icy water before taking the medicine can also lessen the taste.
If possible, you can also mix the medicine with food or drink to make it easier for your child to swallow. This is how Rachel gets her baby to have the medicine:
"The only way I've discovered to get Calpol into my baby who hates it is to mix it in with his milk. Even then that's not foolproof, as sometimes he doesn't even want milk."
Before mixing your medicine with food or drink, check that it is safe with your GP. If not, they may be able to prescribe medicines that taste better or are easier to swallow.
If your child has swallowed liquid medication, give them a nice drink to have immediately afterwards. This will help mask the taste of the medicine.
2. Explain why the medicine helps
If your child is downright refusing to take their medicine, talk to them and find out what is wrong. Is it the taste? Are they scared about choking? Acknowledge their fears, as this will help you talk to them in a reassuring manner. Be open and honest with your child:
- Reassure them that they are not taking the medicine because they have been naughty.
- Tell them that the medicine will make them strong and healthy, as well as what might happen if they don’t take it.
Don’t be too honest, however—you don’t want to scare your child into taking the medicine!
3. Have a calm, positive attitude
Children respond well to encouragement, and we don’t need to tell you that getting angry with them for not taking their medicine may have the opposite effect of making the little ones even more resistant.
Kids will also imitate the behaviour of their parents or guardians, so it’s important to show them how easy and painless the process of swallowing tablets can be (especially if it’s their first time taking a particular medicine and they seem distressed).
4. Give them choices
Providing your child with limited options will give them some choice but also make them realise that they have to take the medicine. These choices will make your child feel like they’re more in control, even if they don’t quite understand why they need to take the medicine. Examples include:
- “Do you want to take the medicine with apple juice or orange juice?”
- “Would you like to take it from a spoon or drinking out of a cup?”
- “Where would you like to take it?”
- “What time would you like to take it?”
If your child prefers to take the medicine all by themselves, make sure they are supervised.
5. Have suppositories as a backup
Although not very common for a lot of medication, suppositories can sometimes be a useful option.
These medicines go into the bottom and are about an inch long. They have a rounded or bullet-shaped tip to help them slide in smoothly, so they’re not as painful as they sound!
While the experience might be unpleasant for you or your child, suppositories can be a useful alternative to oral medication. They certainly worked for Koru Kids’ Rachel:
"If you are struggling to get your child to take their medicine orally, rectal suppositories can be a godsend. Learning about suppositories was a game changer for me. It's far quicker to give my baby one than to battle with Calpol, and we both end up far happier."
6. Get creative!
Children get lost in their imaginations, so you can also try to inject some fun into the process. If your GP allows it, you can then mix the medicine into your child’s favourite food as a treat for being a little trooper. If the medication is a capsule or tablet that has to be swallowed whole, trying out some roleplay will help your child regain some control over the situation. Make them feel like a little champ!
The Bringing Up Great Kids email newsletter
A selection of the best articles we’ve read each month on child development & psychology, parentings tips, and how to bring up (great) kids.