SAHAYOG HOSPITAL - Research Center | Virar | Mumbai

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Techniques for giving young children medicine

The problem

Some young children fight, struggle and become upset when they are given medicine. This may result in them not having any medicine at all and their condition may suffer as a result.

Older children have developed the understanding to know that medicine will help to make them feel better. Therefore, if they refuse to take their medicine issues such as the effect of the medicine in relation to their condition can be discussed with them. This extra information may both reassure them and allow them to be involved in an informed decision about their care and treatments.

Unfortunately younger children are unable to understand that medicine they do not like will help to make them feel better. Other techniques are therefore sometimes needed to help young children take their medicine without causing them distress.

Something to remember

When giving your child his/her medicine it is important to remember that they may not like the medicine but it will help to make them better or help to control their condition. You must realise how well you are helping your child when you give them their medicine.

Some useful points and techniques

  • Be honest and reassuring to your child. State honest facts simply. “it will make you feel better”, “you only have to have 1 spoonful”, “you need to have your medicine now”, and “it tastes like…..”.
  • Make it fun. Make it into a game. Play airplanes with the spoon. Use favourite toys, music or bubbles to distract your child whilst they take their medicine.
  • Reward your child. When your child has taken his/her medicine give them a reward – a kiss and a cuddle, a bravery certificate, clap and cheer them or a favourite snack.
  • Ask questions to get them interested in their medicine – “tell me what it tastes like?”, “tell me what colour it is?” or “tell me what it smells like?”.
  • Give your child as much control as possible. Offer them options – do they want to take it from a spoon or syringe (children sometimes find syringes frightening).
  • Have a drink ready for your child to take immediately after having the medicine. Make the drink more exciting or appealing by using a straw or by adding ice cubes.
  • You may choose to disguise the medicine in a drink although many children spot this attempt instantly. If you do this make sure your child drinks all the drink it is therefore best to put the medicine in a small amount of drink. Do not leave the drink where other children could get it and take it by mistake. Never leave any medicines unattended by an adult therefore if this method is used the drink/medicine must be supervised until it has all gone.
  • Holding and supporting your child. Sometimes only when other techniques have failed it may be necessary to hold your child whilst another person gives them the medicine. To help you to hold your child safely you can wrap them in a towel or blanket and hold them on your knee. Hold your child in your arms in a sitting position or a cuddle position. When your child’s mouth is open put a small amount of the medicine gently in their mouth using a spoon or syringe. Direct the flow of medicine to the side of their mouth aiming for the space between the cheek and the teeth. This will prevent the medicine rushing to the back of the throat causing your child to cough and splutter. You must give your child time to swallow each small amount of medicine in their mouth before giving them more medicine.
  • A gentle and slow approach to giving your child his/her medicine is often the best way.

Safe storage of medicine

Keep all medicines out of the reach of children, in a locked or high cupboard if possible. Ensure all medicines in your house have child tamper proof tops/lids on.