Whether your child has a medical condition that requires him to regularly take medication or you’re treating a temporary illness, you’re probably aware of the lengths that some kids will go to in order to avoid taking medicine. From tantrums to evasion or downright refusal, there are almost as many weapons in a kid’s anti-medication arsenal as there are reasons behind his reluctance to take the medicine in the first place. Before you resort to force-feeding, threats or bribery to get much-needed medication down your child’s throat, consider these methods of making the process a bit less of a battle.
Consult Your Pharmacist
One of the most common reasons kids resist taking liquid medication is the unpleasant taste. Older kids who have been prescribed pills may also have difficulty swallowing them. In both cases, a conversation with your family pharmacist may do the trick. Many pharmacies keep a supply of flavoring syrups on hand to make liquid medication more palatable for finicky kids, and your child may be more willing to take his medication when he’s been able to choose the flavor himself. You may also be able to get liquid versions of medications your child is taking in pill form, but you won’t know unless you inquire about alternatives.
Use a Chaser
Just as imbibing adults tend to chase strong liquor with something that helps the brew go down a bit more easily, your child may benefit from a dose of juice to ease the nastiness of a liquid medication. If you’re in the habit of diluting fruit juice for normal drinking, providing an ounce or so of pure juice may be more effective. Cranberry juice is particularly useful when it comes to masking unpleasant flavors, but it’s tartness may just compound the taste issue for a picky child. Look for cranberry juice blends that add a bit of sweetness, if necessary. Just be sure that the medication your child is taking isn’t prone to loss of potency before mixing it with anything acidic like orange juice, applesauce or soda.
Lend the Illusion of Control
For fiercely independent kids, the majority of the medication battle can be based upon a simple refusal to take part in a process over which they have no control. Instead of using a syringe to squirt medication into your child’s waiting mouth or holding a specially-designed medication spoon for her, let your child take a bit of control over the administering of her own medication. Some kids will give up the fight when they’re able to take the medication on their own.
Explain Why Medicine is Necessary
When your child is old enough to be verbal, a simple explanation may be enough to help her take medication without a struggle. Without one, you’re simply asking her to swallow something that tastes bad for no discernible reason. Talk to your little one about why she has to take her medicine, how it will help her to feel better and that she’ll be able to start doing the things she likes again when she’s no longer sick. This approach may be more effective when it’s paired with one that makes the medication more palatable, but it’s not one you should ignore.
Think Twice Before Crushing Tablets
Unless they’re of the chewable variety, it’s not always wise to crush pills in order to hide them in food or liquid. Depending upon the type of medication, crushing the tablets may affect their efficacy or cause irritation to your child’s stomach lining. It’s best to double-check with a pharmacist or your child’s pediatrician before you take matters into your own hands when it comes to administering tablets.
Never Refer to Medicine as “Candy”
In a moment of desperation, a parent will call medicine anything other than what it is in an attempt to coerce a reluctant child to take it. The last thing you want to do, however, is tell a child that you’re giving her “candy” or a “treat” when she’s being given medication. That will only create confusion that could have tragic implications later. Be clear about what medication is, why it’s used and that it should never be taken unless it’s administered by an adult.
If nothing you try seems to have any effect on your child’s willingness to cooperate, it may be time to contact his pediatrician in order to make more reliable arrangements for treatment. She may also be able to provide you with alternatives to oral medications you can administer at home, or have other ideas regarding ways to encourage your child to take the medicine he needs.