Giving your baby and young child medicine

Giving your baby and young child medicine

The secret to getting a child to take medicine? Making them believe that they need it. A child can sense your doubt and will resist no matter what you do, unless you sincerely believe what’s you're doing is best. Be confident and determined to inspire your child’s trust and confidence.

Tips for getting your child to take her medicine

  • Prevent choking by making sure that your child or infant is at least at a 45-degree angle when taking any medicine and preferably for older children standing or sitting up.
  • Give liquid medicine to a baby or toddler along the side of the mouth, about halfway down. If it goes directly to the centre of your child's palate, it will trigger a gag. Place tablets on the back of the tongue or your baby will spit them out.
  • Disguise a medicine's bad taste when possible. Favourite vehicles include apple sauce, yoghurt, custard and jam. For the most resistant cases, try soft sweets, ice cream or chocolate syrup. If you’re mixing in liquids like juice, use only small amounts – a significant part of the medicine will be left coating the cup, glass or bottle.
  • Use a measuring spoon. It's more accurate than ordinary tableware. Better yet, use a plastic medicine spoon with dosage markings. Or medicine syringe which is easy for babies and young children.
  • Medicine is not a 'sweet', so don’t refer to it as such when talking to toddlers and older children. You're setting up a potentially dangerous confusion. Tell it like it is.
  • Always supervise a child younger than a teenager when taking his medicine.
  • Forget bargaining or bribing. The stakes will just escalate. Also, you give the message that taking medicine is a negotiable activity when it really isn't. Give your child some choice in the situation, like which cup they want to drink a chaser from or what room he wants to take his medicine in, but that’s it.
  • Punishment won’t work on a child who refuses to take medicine. Most medicine tastes nasty, and we're all programmed to avoid bitter tastes, which are generally poisons when found in nature. Just insist and carry on. And when the mission has been accomplished, don't forget the BIG hug and congratulations on a job well done – for both of you!

Age-specific

Here are some specific strategies and techniques based on your child's age.

Infants

  • Hold your baby at a 45-degree angle, with his hands down and head supported.
  • Using a plastic syringe, a medicine dropper, or a teat from a bottle, drip the medicine onto the back of his tongue near the sides. Avoid emptying the dropper into his cheek pouches, because your baby will surely spit it all out at his first opportunity. Also avoid squirting the medicine down into your baby's throat, because they could choke.
  • Give a chaser of milk or juice.

Toddlers and pre-schoolers

You can reduce the bad taste of some liquid medicines in several ways.

  • Chill the medicine or have your child suck on an ice-lolly or ice chips before taking the medicine. Then use a favourite cold drink as a chaser. Cold temperatures numb the taste buds.
  • Mix the medicine with a strongly flavoured food such as a chocolate pudding or jam. Make sure that your child eats all of the mixed food. You can also dilute the medicine in a strong-tasting liquid such as apple juice, as long as your child will drink all of it.

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