A spoonful of sugar? Convincing your toddler to take medication

Having a sick toddler isn’t any fun for you or for them, and if they are prescribed medication, convincing them to actually take it is a whole new battle of its own. For under-the-weather kiddos who are otherwise pretty tired out, it’s amazing how much strength they can muster up when it comes to fighting off the dreaded oral syringe. Whether your toddler turns to kicking, squirming, or just refusing to open their mouth, here are a few tips for helping the medicine go down.

  • Make it taste better: Medicine can be, well, pretty yucky. Young children often don’t understand the benefits of swallowing their medicine, so to them, it’s adding insult to injury as you force them to drink something they don’t like when they’re not feeling their best. One way to solve the problem is to make the medicine a bit more palatable. Find out the flavor Baby likes best, and look for a liquid in that flavor. Pharmacists are often able to add flavors to children’s prescriptions, too, so ask the pharmacy if that’s an option as you fill the next prescription. For liquid medications, serving them chilled can also help to cut the bitterness of the flavor.
  • Pick up the pace: Dragging out the process of giving the medication often makes matters worse, so it’s best to keep it quick. If you’re giving your toddler medicine through a syringe, give the dose as fast as possible with the syringe pointed toward the back of their cheek. This way, it all goes down at once, rather than asking them to open for several small squirts.
  • Keep it fun: Being sick is a drag, but it doesn’t hurt to try to brighten the mood. Now that Baby is a little older, it may help to offer them a small reward, like a sticker chart, and let Baby put a sticker on the chart each time they take the medicine. The incentive may be worth the dose.
  • Ask for an alternative: If your child isn’t taking the medicine, it’s important to let their doctor know. The pediatrician may prescribe an alternative form of the medication, like a dissolvable tablet or a suppository. Another alternative may be a less concentrated dose of the medication.

Though it’s tempting to mix the medication into food or a beverage, depending on the medication, doing so can have a negative effect on how quickly the medicine is absorbed, so check with a doctor before taking this approach. If you do end up mixing the medication into a snack or drink, it’s also a good idea to mix it into a small amount that your toddler is likely to finish, since if they doesn’t finish the food or drink the medicine is mixed into, they may end up with only a partial dose of medication, which can be less effective, or even dangerous. For safety’s sake, it’s also a good idea to avoid referring to medicine as “candy” or another treat, so that your toddler won’t be tempted to go looking for some when they isn’t sick anymore.

Always keep medication out of your child’s reach, and always let your child’s doctor know if you they refuse to take the medication that has been prescribed.

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