Hard to Swallow? Medicine Tips for Tots

girl eating nasty medicine

What’s worse: your two-year-old’s double ear infection, or the pink glop she has to swallow twice a day for the next week and a half to cure it? Many parents face temper tantrums at the slightest hint of medicine, and one thing’s clear: it might take more than a spoonful of sugar to get this medicine down.

What’s a parent to do? Kiera needs the medicine, but it’s more likely to get spit out than swallowed. Seeing as you can’t literally force it down their throat, you might need some better strategies. Follow these guidelines from Jody McVittie, MD to help your kids get the medicine they need:

  1. Question the medicine. While a lot of medicine really is necessary, sometimes you can do without. For instance, a fever isn’t inherently dangerous–and to some kids, isn’t as bad as swallowing the syrup. If taking medicine is a problem in your house, talk with your doctor about when you can do without.
  2. Fight the illness, not the child–and do whatever you can to keep daily dosing from being a power struggle. While getting your child to drink the medicine might take some effort, turning it into a fight or implementing discipline won’t be productive. Instead, level with your child: “I know you don’t like the medicine and you’re upset, but you have to take it to get better. Let’s figure out a way to make this doable for you.” Empathize, but there’s no reason to go overboard–overcoming adversity, such as a dropper full of bitter-tasting syrup, is an important lesson for everyone. Let your child know you have faith in him, and take it from there.
  3. Make it better. The medicine will be easier to swallow if you offer it with a few options for your child. For instance, you can let them numb their tastebuds with an ice cube beforehand–then, the taste won’t be as strong. Maybe you can mix it in juice (just make sure they drink all of it), or crush a tablet into peanut butter, jelly or Nutella. A strong ice-cream flavor like mint chocolate chip, combined with its cold tastebud-numbing effect, might help mask the flavor and sweeten the deal. Different forms or brands of medicine might have a better taste–and a highly motivated preschooler might even happily learn to swallow a pill to avoid drinking the sticky stuff.

Illness is miserable for any parent and child, but the cure doesn’t have to be.

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.