Medicine Tips for Toddlers

Being sick sucks. It especially sucks when a little one is sick, since they can’t always express their feelings or understand why they just feel awful. Zach recently had a teething-related bug, the kind you tend to get when you’re chewing on everything because you just can’t get those molars in fast enough.

While recent studies have suggested that it’s okay for kids to run fevers to a certain degree, since it helps kill whatever bug is ailing them, it’s also widely accepted to give your toddler some meds if they’re lethargic and having other issues, like not eating.

However, when your kiddo is sick, it’s sometimes hard to get them to take their medicine. It seemed with Zach that I’d pour the liquid in his mouth, and he’d spit it back out. I’d try to make sure he got the full dose, sweeping the liquid back into his mouth, but he’d resist so much I’d start fearing he might choke on tears and Tylenol. I would give up, frustrated, and he’d still be miserable after not getting even a few drops into his system.

Finally, something had to give, and I started exploring ideas to get him to take his medicine more easily.

For liquid, a dropper often works better than a spoon or cup. You can squirt the medicine into their cheek near the back of their mouth, and it’ll slide right down. Be careful not to stick the dropper straight back– they can wiggle and end up activating their gag reflex, and you’ll wind up with a lot more of a mess on your hands. By squeezing it into the pocket of their cheek, it goes down without too much taste even hitting their tongue.

Mix it with fruit juice if you need to– just a little bit of juice with a similarly flavored medicine (like sticking with grape juice for grape medicine) will help mask the taste as it goes down.

Have water on hand, or another favorite drink, for after the dose is given. The easiest way to quell arguments of nasty medicine taste is to make sure kids can flush it out immediately after taking the medicine with a favorite juice or water.

Switch to chewables, if your child is old enough. I thought you had to wait until 4 for chewables, but I finally discovered that there are some name and off-brand chewables on the market for children as young as two years old. While you should never bill it as being candy-like, the little tablets are quite similar to Smarties, and allow kids a little less fear than a nasty syrup.

Hide the pill in some applesauce or pudding. If your child is still resisting when it comes to tablets, tuck it into some applesauce or pudding and have them eat it that way– they’ll be less likely to taste it as it goes down.

Ask for a different flavor. Some pharmacies can add or change the taste of certain prescription liquids if requested, or can point you in the direction of a different flavor when buying over-the-counter medicine. Most pharmacists are happy to help you find a flavor that works for your child.

With the tips listed above, your child might even become excited about taking their medicine. Because of this, you’ll want to be sure all of your medicine is out of reach and locked away to prevent over-medicating. Also be sure to check dosage instructions with your pharmacist, or consult a website like Dr. Sears’ website if you’ve lost the dosage instructions for an over-the-counter medicine. One of the biggest hospitalization causes for kids is over-medication or accidental overdose, so use caution when dosing and make sure that all medicine is put away where your child cannot access it easily.

As always, I am not a doctor. Be sure to consult with a doctor or pharmacist before trying the tips listed in this article. If you do have a concern that your child accidentally ingested medicine, contact poison control and get them to the nearest emergency room immediately. 

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