What Makes the Medicine Go Down

Expert advice on getting children to take their medications

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SATURDAY, Aug. 30, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Forget that spoonful of sugar. Here are some realistic tips on how to get your children to take their medicines.

The advice comes from Catherine Tom, a pediatric clinical pharmacist at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.

She says that, with older children, you should be honest with them about their medicines. Never tell them the medicine is candy to get them to take it. Instead, teach the child about the medicine and explain why she needs to take it and how it will help her feel better.

Answer a child's questions with a positive attitude. If the medicine tastes bad, warn the child beforehand that it has a "different" taste.

You can try to numb your child's taste buds with his favorite fruit pop or ice chips. You can also coat your child's tongue with honey before giving the medicine.

Food or drink can also mask bad-tasting medicines. But you should first consult with your doctor or pharmacist. The ability of some medicines to work properly may be hindered if they're crushed or mixed with certain foods.

When possible, try to incorporate medicine taking into your child's daily routine.

If your child has to take liquid medicine, use an oral syringe or a medicinal spoon, which you can get from your doctor or pharmacy. These items allow you to measure medicine amounts more accurately and it may make it more fun for the child. Some medicinal spoons are shaped like animals.

Many liquid medicines can be mixed with a small amount of strong-flavored syrups, or a bit of cold carbonated drink, or a small amount of half-frozen fruit juice.

Some pharmacies actually offer a medicine flavoring system that has more than 40 flavors. But a "flavoring fee" is often added to the cost of the medicine.

Some pills can be crushed between two spoons or with a pill crusher bought from the pharmacy. And some capsules can be opened so that you can sprinkle the medicine on food or mix it with a drink. But check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if either of these approaches are an option for your child's particular medicine.

If you can crush the pills or sprinkle the powder from a capsule, you might mix the medicine with a bit of apple sauce, sherbet, pudding, gelatin or ice cream. Or you can mix the crushed pills or powder with a teaspoon of water and cherry syrup, carbonated drink or half-frozen raspberry juice.

A chaser -- fruit juice, mints or candy -- may help get rid of any medicinal aftertaste.

Reward your children with, for example, a sticker or a treat each time they successfully take medicine.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about your medicines.

SOURCE: Children's Hospital at Montefiore, news release, August 2003
Consumer News