Most parents have experienced the stubborn, tearful face of a toddler or older child when presenting a spoonful of vile-tasting medicine. It’s difficult not to sympathize with the child’s feelings; some medicines can be exceptionally strong-smelling and can literally be difficult for a child to swallow. Persuading children to take their medicine can be a real challenge; here are some strategies to help sweeten even the bitterest pill.
One way to avoid the fight over bad-tasting medicine is to ask the physician if the medicine can be made more pleasant with flavorings or by mixing it with less objectionable foods or drinks. This can sometimes mask or overcome an unpleasant flavor and can often allow even the most finicky children to take their medicine without complaint.
While a spoonful of sugar is said to make the medicine go down, the promise of a reward after a successful dosage can often produce better results than sweets given before or during the medicating process. A small toy or cookie can work wonders, especially with smaller children.
When possible, parents should offer children options in how and when to take their medicine. Children may feel more in control of the situation if they can decide to take their medicine before a snack or juice, rather than after. For smaller children, setting aside a special spoon just for their medicine can provide a welcome distraction from the taste and odor of the prescription medication.
Be Calm But Firm
It can be difficult to remain unruffled in the face of a full-scale tantrum; however, parents should try to keep their cool even when a child physically demonstrates his or her unwillingness to take medicine. Never respond in kind to a temper tantrum; at best, this will confuse the child, while at worst the child may see this behavior as validating the temper tantrum as an effective strategy.
Explain the Situation
While toddlers may not respond well to reasoned argument, older children can often understand the purpose of and need for medicine in order to get better. It’s best to put the situation in terms the child can understand. By pointing out that the child won’t be able to play outside or enjoy many favorite activities until he or she is better, parents can reinforce the importance of taking medicine and potentially avoid a noisy fuss.
Go Around the Problem
In some cases, it may be possible to avoid the entire ordeal by using a dropper to deliver the medication to the back of the child’s throat where it can be quickly swallowed and washed down afterwards with a favorite drink. Children who don’t have to smell or taste the medication are less likely to develop an aversion to the process and may be more willing to take it in the future.
Set the Scene for Success
Parents can sometimes get better results by scheduling the dosage for the same time and in the same place every day. By incorporating the medicine into the child’s daily routine, it may be possible to avoid some of the drama associated with the process.
Get to the Bottom of Things
If all else fails and children simply can’t or won’t take their medicine orally, it may be time to call the pediatrician and ask if the medicine is available in suppository form. While this is messy and somewhat less pleasant for everyone involved, it may be the best and most effective way to ensure the child gets the medication he or she needs to feel better.
As with most parenting tasks, patience and perseverance are the keys to success in persuading children to take prescribed medications. By remaining calm and using proven strategies to address the problem, parents can help their children feel better faster and achieve better results in the long run.