One expert who spends part of his day guiding parents through this task offers a few suggestions to make the ordeal easier.
Emily Glarum, a child life specialist at the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, offers these tips: Be honest, practice it, give choices, set a schedule, and let your baby take small sips or use a straw.
“We like it promote honesty” Glarum said in a hospital press release. “Hiding medication in food can make children feel cheated and add some mistrust or even disgust to different foods.
“What I’ve experienced in the past is that a child may start to discover that their medication has been mixed with food, and then they may stop eating that food altogether or be more careful about the food they eat and think, ‘Oh, they’re adding medicine for that?” she said.
While Glarum advises against trying to hide medication in food, if children prefer medication mixed into their food or drink, it’s okay to let them know.
“Make sure children know about this and be honest about why they need the medicine in a way they can understand. For example, something like, ‘We’re trying to help your knees feel better,’ or ‘We’re trying to help your stomach feel better,'” she said. “Especially if it’s a medication they have to take long-term, it can help them establish understanding and control over it.”
Start and stick to a consistent “medication time” schedule, Glarum suggested.
Offer a choice if it works. For example, let your child take liquid medicine through a dropper or cup. Or allow a choice of water or juice to take the pill. The timing of the medication can also be a little flexible, such as allowing your child to choose whether to take the dose before or after the bath.
Take time to practice taking your medication, especially when switching from liquids to pills. Fear of suffocation can be one obstacle, Glarum said. She has a baby practice with smaller candies and then increases to something approaching the size of a pill.
“For example, if we have a Skittle-sized pill, then you have to start with something smaller, like little dot-sized sprinkles or Nerds,” Glarum said. “From there we can go to mini M&Ms, regular-sized M&Ms and Skittles, all the way up to Mike and Ikes, which are about the size of a standard tablet.”
This helps them increase their comfort level, she noted.
If your child doesn’t like the taste of liquid medicine, you can let them sip it in small portions and then wash each mini-dose down with a little water or a drink they like.
Offer a small reward between doses, such as working on a coloring book or placing a Lego brick on top of a structure, Glarum said.
An alternative for a child who doesn’t want to sip liquid to take medicine is to use a straw. It can be a good distraction and create a force strong enough to pop a pill quickly.
“It helps give them a little more confidence,” Glarum said, “because it’s easier to fall.”
For an infant, you can use a syringe and put the drops between the baby’s cheek and tongue, allowing each drop to be swallowed until the full dose is taken out.
The US Food and Drug Administration offers additional advice on make children take medicine.
SOURCE: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, News Release, July 18, 2022