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Quick Tips: Helping Children Take Medicine

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Giving medicine to a child can be tricky. Some liquid medicines taste or smell bad. Or they may have a strange texture.

And when a child doesn't feel well, he or she can act grumpy or more stubborn than usual.

But you can take steps to avoid power struggles, give your child a sense of control, and make taking medicines a bit easier for everyone.

Avoiding power struggles

  • If your child refuses a medicine, take a moment to pause. Stay calm, take a deep breath, and plan your next steps.
  • Show your child that you're both on the same team. Say "we" instead of "I" and "you."
  • Offer comfort, such as a hug or your child's favorite cuddly toy.
  • Praise your child if he or she takes the medicine easily.

Giving your child some control

  • Ask if your child wants to know how the medicine will help. If your child says "yes," give a simple answer.
  • Give your child choices about how to take the medicine. For example, you can ask if he or she would prefer to sit or stand. And if your child is old enough, you can let your child put the pill on his or her tongue or hold the cup of medicine.

Taking liquid medicines

Many children worry or complain about the taste of medicines. These tips can help.

  • Offer your child a flavored ice pop or cold drink before giving the medicine. The cold can dull your child's sense of taste.
  • Ask your child to pinch his or her nose closed. This can make the medicine taste less strong.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medicine can be mixed with a small amount of food, such as applesauce or pudding. It's important to ask, because some medicines don't work as well when they're mixed with food. If it's okay to mix the medicine with food, be sure your child eats all the food.
  • Have a cup of water, milk, or juice nearby to quickly wash away the taste of the medicine.

Taking tablets or pills

Some medicines come in a chewable form. Chewables are an option after your child has molar teeth in the back of the mouth.

By the age of 10, your child may be able to swallow a pill. Here are some tips to share with your child as you teach him or her to swallow pills.

  • Put the pill far back on your tongue.
  • Drink from a straw to help wash down the pill.
  • Tilt your head back as you swallow the pill.


Current as of: February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine