Getting the kids to take their medicine can sometimes be a hassle, can’t it? The thought of taking strange substances or tablets can be deeply unpleasant or scary for many children, and they might not understand why they have to take it.
Let’s face it, swallowing tablets can be troubling for some adults, let alone a hyperactive seven-year-old. And more often than not, if a small child doesn’t want something, they will let it be known!
Rachel Carrell, founder and CEO of London-based childcare service Koru Kids, has been having medicine troubles of her own:
"I really struggle with giving my 1-year-old baby Calpol. My older daughter always loved it, but my baby HATES it.
He clamps his mouth shut and I can't get any of it in him. If I take the opportunity while he's opening his mouth to cry, not only do I feel like a horrible person shoving it in his mouth, but I also worry I am choking him as he's trying to breathe, not swallow, and it might go down the wrong way.
The whole experience is a nightmare and leaves us both really distressed. And also really sticky."
If you’re managing the medication of multiple children, this can be even more stressful. Trying to keep track of who needs what—and at what time—can feel nigh on impossible when you’ve also got to take care of meals, playtime and bedtime.
Thankfully, there are many ways you can lessen the trauma for your children and reduce the stress for yourself—all without needing to have Mary Poppins on speed dial.
If you’re a parent, guardian or nanny, here are seven simple solutions to get kids to take their medicine properly.
1) Improve the taste
Most of our taste buds are located at the back of the tongue, so placing the medicine on the inside of your child’s cheek will reduce the taste. For older children, drinking a glass of icy water before taking the medicine can also lessen the taste.
If possible, you can also mix the medicine with food or drink to make it easier for your child to swallow. This is how Rachel gets her baby to have the medicine: "The only way I've discovered to get Calpol into my baby who hates it is to mix it in with his milk. Even then that's not foolproof, as sometimes he doesn't even want milk."
Before mixing your medicine with food or drink, check that it is safe with your GP. If not, they may be able to prescribe medicines that taste better or are easier to swallow.
If your child has swallowed liquid medication, give them a nice drink to have immediately afterwards. This will help mask the taste of the medicine.
2) Explain why medicine helps
If your child is downright refusing to take their medicine, talk to them and find out what is wrong. Is it the taste? Are they scared about choking? Acknowledge their fears, as this will help you talk to them in a reassuring manner. Be open and honest with your child:
- Reassure them that they are not taking the medicine because they have been naughty.
- Tell them that the medicine will make them strong and healthy, as well as what might happen if they don’t take it.
Don’t be too honest, however—you don’t want to scare your child into taking the medicine!
3) Have a calm, positive attitude
Children respond well to encouragement, and we don’t need to tell you that getting angry with them for not taking their medicine may have the opposite effect of making the little ones even more resistant.
Kids will also imitate the behaviour of their parents or guardians, so it’s important to show them how easy and painless the process of swallowing tablets can be (especially if it’s their first time taking a particular medicine and they seem distressed). Of course, don’t take any medicine that you shouldn’t be taking, as you don’t want to set a bad example!
4) Give them choices
Providing your child with limited options will give them some choice but also make them realise that they have to take the medicine. These choices will make your child feel like they’re more in control, even if they don’t quite understand why they need to take the medicine. Examples include:
- “Do you want to take the medicine with apple juice or orange juice?”
- “Would you like to take it from a spoon or drinking out of a cup?”
- “Where would you like to take it?”
- “What time would you like to take it?”
If your child prefers to take the medicine all by themselves, make sure they are supervised.
5) Hand out praise and rewards
Even if the process of getting your child to take the medication becomes long and arduous, always praise them for being brave or doing a good job. Providing a rewards system will also get your child accustomed to a medication routine and get them excited for a nice reward at the end. You can:
- Promise to give them a treat afterwards. This can include giving them their favourite food, letting them watch an hour of their favourite TV or even buying them a small toy. Just make sure you can stick to your word, as a broken promise may dissuade your child from taking their medicine again!
- Use stickers or reward charts to measure progress. Providing a small or simple reward once your child has collected a certain amount of stickers or gold stars, etc. will help turn the ordeal into a game and keep your kid motivated.
6) Have suppositories as a back-up
If you are struggling to get your child to take their medicine orally, rectal suppositories can be a godsend.
These medicines go into the bottom and are about an inch long. They have a rounded or bullet-shaped tip to help them slide in smoothly, so they’re not as painful as they sound!
While the experience might be unpleasant for you or your child, suppositories can be a useful alternative to oral medication. They certainly worked for Koru Kids’ Rachel:
"Learning about suppositories was a game changer for me. It's far quicker to give my baby one than to battle with Calpol, and we both end up far happier."
7) Get creative!
Children get lost in their imaginations, so you can also try to inject some fun into the process. If your GP allows it, you can then mix the medicine into your child’s favourite food as a treat for being a little trooper. If the medicine is a capsule or tablet that has to be swallowed whole, trying out some roleplay will help your child regain some control over the situation. Make them feel like a little champ!
About Koru Kids
Koru Kids is a London-based service providing after-school childcare and summer holiday care. Recognising the difficulties of finding childcare in London, Rachel founded Koru Kids to provide a great, affordable and convenient childcare service for parents.
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