Administering medicine to a toddler

If Baby is sick and you have the medication to make them feel better, you’d think they might be at least a little bit interested in taking it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The old spoonful of sugar trick isn’t the answer, so what’s a parent to do?

When to give medication

The surefire, no doubt, best way to know when to give medication is to follow the recommendations of the pediatrician or other healthcare provider, which will be listed on the label of the medication. The healthcare provider will be able to tell you when to administer the medication and how long to keep it up. If the healthcare provider prescribes medication for Baby, make sure to give them the full recommended dose, even if they feel better after a couple of days. If you stop a few pills short of emptying the bottle, you may not kill all the bacteria that caused the original illness, leading to a potential antibiotic resistance in the future.

Over-the-counter medication will have instructions on the label about what ages it’s appropriate for, but you shouldn’t give it to toddlers or small children without talking to the healthcare provider. He or she will be able to talk you through the proper medication and dose.

How to give medication

It can be intimidating to give medicine to your child. You don’t want to make them uncomfortable, but you want them to start feeling better. Read all of the instructions for the medication, remember any other suggestions the healthcare provider made, and try to make it a positive experience. Each type of medication will require different administration.

  • Oral medication: If you need to give your child medication in pill or liquid form, first make sure that you understand the proper dose and under what circumstances the medication should be taken (in the morning, after eating, etc.). You can give them liquid medication from a spoon or little cup. If they need to take a pill, it might be available in chewable form. If not, see if you can give it with food or water.
  • Rectal medication: You might need to administer rectal medication at some point to relieve fever, nausea, vomiting, or constipation. Wearing gloves, insert a lubricated suppository past the anal sphincter, and make sure your child doesn’t move for five to 10 minutes so the medication won’t be expelled.
  • Injectable medication: If your child has a special condition that requires insulin or an epinephrine autoinjector, you might need to give an injection outside of a hospital. Make sure that you follow the directions of that medication, including how much to give, how often to give it, and where to administer the injection.

Ways to make it easier 

If you can talk to Baby about what’s happening, explain why you’re giving them medication and how it helps people feel better. It might also make them more comfortable if they have options about taking the medicine.

If it’s safe and reasonable to do so, let them pick where and when to take it; even let them pick the flavor if it’s liquid! And if you’d like, you can follow up medicine time with a treat to help speed the process along. Something as simple as an episode of a favorite TV show, or a snack might encourage Baby to take their medicine.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Antibiotics: Misuse puts you and others at risk.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. December 12, 2014. Web.
  • Freedman, Nicole. “Nine stress-free tips for giving your child medicine.” Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 2016. Web.
  • “Insulin injection.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. February 15, 2014. Web.
  • “Rectal medication.” Medication Administration 2. ATI Nursing Education. 2016. Web.
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