Tricks to help kids take medicine

Getting kids to take their medicine can sometimes be a monumental task. Even Meghann Wellard, a nurse practitioner with Arundel Pediatrics in Arnold, has had a tough time with it.

“I am struggling giving my 8-year-old liquid medicine right now for strep, and I have had to pull out all of my tricks,” she says.

Medicine WThere are plenty of tricks for parents dealing with sick kids who refuse to take their medicine. Here is some advice from Wellard, Dr. Margaret Turner of Annapolis Pediatrics and Dr. Ettaly Jobes from Chesapeake Pediatrics in Annapolis.

Give choices. Kids like to be in control. If you give them choices such as how they want to take the medication, it may go better, Wellard says. They can choose to take it as a pill or liquid or choose plain or flavored, she says.

Flavor or chase the medicine. Pharmacists can often flavor bad-tasting medicine, the doctors say. Turner also recommends chasing a medication with chocolate syrup, chocolate chips or anything the child likes. Jobes and Wellard suggest mixing the medicine with chocolate syrup, applesauce, yogurt or even ice cream — just make sure the child eats it all.

Offer rewards. Positive motivation or bribery is a good way to get kids to take medication, all three practitioners agree.

Start a sticker chart. Make a chart that marks off how many doses a child has taken and how many are left.

Have a positive attitude. Children sense frustration, Jobe says. If a parent is stressed, the child becomes tense as well, Wellard adds.

Avoid the taste buds. Syringe the medication into the cheek pouch, avoiding the tongue, Jobes suggests. Hold the child's nose to mask bad flavor.

Encourage pill swallowing. Have children practice swallowing a small piece of candy so they can learn to take pills. Kids as young as 4 can learn to swallow pills, Jobes says.

Don't call medicine candy. Doing so can confuse children. They may eat a bottle of vitamins or chewable Tylenol because they don't know the difference between medicine and candy, Turner says.

Don't threaten kids with a shot. This is not always an option and may lead children to think shots are punishment, Turner says.

By Betsy Stein