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How Can I Get My Child to Take her Medicine?

Resource Type

Parent Handouts and Info - Parent


Offers suggestions regarding getting infants and toddlers to take medicine.


All Ages

Age Groups

Infancy (<1), Toddlerhood (1-3), Preschool/Kindergarten (3-5), School Age (6-12)

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How Can I Get My Child to Take her Medicine?

How Can I Get My Child to Take her Medicine?

Childhood illnesses can raise many feelings for parents. Mothers and fathers often feel worried and concerned about whether their child will be all right, or guilty about the discomfort or pain their child may be experiencing. One thing you can do to help your child get well is to give medicine appropriately-although this can often lead to struggles with your child.

All medicines are chemicals and most chemicals taste bad. The more dangerous the medicine, usually the worse it tastes. The drug companies don't want your child to love the medicine so much that he will drink the bottle! Unfortunately, the taste is why you end up having so much trouble. Here are some tricks of the trade.

Ideas to try:

  • Allow as many choices as possible: which dropper or spoon, before nap or after, etc.
  • Have a special chaser, e.g. soda, a favorite juice
  • Use a straw (most of the medicine goes right to the back of the throat and down)
  • Give a sticker for each dose or use a sticker chart
  • Use limits: "You can play with that toy after you take your medicine."
  • Mix the medicine with a strong tasting food (chocolate pudding and root beer work well).
  • Praise each spoonful
  • Be empathetic but firm
  • Try different approaches-a strategy that didn't work when your child was younger may work as she matures


  • Call medicine candy
  • Hide it in food unless you tell the child first (he may never eat applesauce again!)
  • Give in and skip a dose!

Infants are a special category-the easiest age for giving medicines. If you don't already have one, invest in either a calibrated medicine dropper or a medicine syringe. Each should be available in your drug store and can be cleaned with soap and water after each dose. Purse the baby's lips together and place the dropper inside the cheek. With the lips still pursed, slowly put the medicine in and keep lips pursed until the baby swallows. This technique ensures that most of the medicine will be swallowed and not drooled out or, as she gets older, spat out!

For more information, call your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Adapted from Healthy Steps. Edited and Compiled by the Center for Promotion of Child Development Through Primary Care 2011

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