Clearly unlike the kids in the Mary Poppins movie, when it comes to our energetic, opinionated children, it will take much more than a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.

It will definitely take all the patience you can muster and any creative technique you can master…

Spoon and dropper techniques

Droppers, syringes and tubes are options for infants who are yet to learn how to swallow from a spoon

Spoon – If he won’t open his mouth willingly, pull down his chin and place the spoon on his lower lip. Then, gently raise the angle of the spoon so that the medicine will run over into his mouth

Mouth dropper – Hold him in the crook of your arm and use the hand of that same arm to encircle his cheeks. Then, create a cheek pocket by using your middle or index finger to pull out the corner of his mouth before using your free hand to drop the medicine in. (*If your child is a spitter, request for chewable options of the medicine, crush it, form a paste with it by adding a little water and then apply it bit by bit to his cheeks. Or mix the medicine with your child’s food. But in such situations ensure he finishes every bit of the food and leaves no left over)

Ear drop – Lie him on his side with the affected ear up. Then holding him steady, let the medicine drop into the centre of his ear. Don’t let go of him until all the drops have entered the ear canal

Nose drop – Tilt his head slightly backwards and let the required number of drops fall into the nostril

Eye drop – Slightly tilt his head up so that the affected eye is lower than the unaffected ear. This is necessary so that drops from the affected eye do not run into the unaffected eye. Then, gently pull down the eyelid and allow the drop fall into the space between the eye and lower lid

Tips for managing toddlers

  • Avoid expressing any form of frustration you may feel during the exercise. It is very important you stay calm and remain positive because your child will pick up on your negative vibes and become unresponsive and agitated in the process (This applies to infants as well)
  • If the medicine tastes unpleasant, ask the doctor for tastier options (This applies to infants as well)
  • Don’t make ‘medicine taking’ feel like a punishment
  • Prepare him in advance by listening to his fears, allaying them and explaining to him the importance of taking the medicine
  • Give him some level of control. For example ask him if he wants to take his medicine with an apple juice or water, or if he wants to take it before or after breakfast, or what flavor of the drug he prefers
  • Creatively make a way for him to track his progress and instill pride in himself. For example, for every medicine he successfully takes, give him a colorful sticker to stick on the calendar. Hence, he can gradually track his progress and show it off to friends, family or even his doctor
  • Distract him with a book, television program or something that will bring out a good laugh. Then, when his guard is down, drop in the medicine
  • Get him to give a ‘make belief’ portion of the medicine to one of his stuffed toys before settling down to take his own
  • Let him first suck on ice cubes to numb his taste buds
  • Before giving the medicine, try fooling his tongue by coating it with a sweet syrup. Or immediately after taking the medicine, let him wash down the taste with something sweet
  • Make the medicine look more inviting by disguising its original colour with a drop of food colouring
  • Teach children older than 4 years to swallow by first coaching them on how to swallow tiny pieces of candy. Then when they are ready, dip the capsule in cold water (this makes it slippery) or break the pill into smaller pieces, before handing it over to him to swallow
  • If you are still unsuccessful, get someone other than you to give the medicine or hold him down with a hugging restraint and let a second person drop the medicine in

Do you know that…

  • Medicine is not always the answer to medical symptoms.
  • Medicine is absorbed about 30 – 45 minutes after taken in. So if your child throws up after this time space, you don’t have to repeat the dose
  • Medicine is not absorbed as quickly when paired with food
  • Temperature modification of medicine (by freezing or warming) could alter its efficacy
  • Taste buds are concentrated toward the front and centre of the tongue while the gag sensitive areas are the roof of the mouth and back of the tongue. Hence it is best to avoid these sensitive areas and aim for the pocket between the gum and the cheek or the rear of the mouth
  • Some food makes medicine less effective. So always check in with a doctor first
  • Swallowing of medicine is more successful when it is practiced during neutral and less stressful times
  • It is best to practice swallowing of medicine with water. You could also practice with juice. However soda is a ‘no-no’ because the carbonation will fill up your child’s tummy quickly.
  • Adding liquid medicine to your child’s drink will sink it to the bottom. Hence it is advised not to do so
  • Brushing your child’s teeth after taking liquid medicine will prevent syrup from sticking to his teeth
  • Letting the medicine dropper (eye dropper, ear dropper, mouth dropper) touch the infected body parts (eye, ear or mouth/tongue) will transfer germs back into the bottle. Hence such contaminated droppers must be immediately washed
  • Sometimes your child may be spitting up the medicine because he is too sick to take it in, and not because he wants to be difficult. Hence in such situations discuss alternate options, such as suppository or injection versions of the drug or anti vomiting suppository, with the doctor