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How can I get my child to take medicine?
Q: If a child is given medication through a sippy cup of milk, will the medication still do its job? Keep in mind the child may not drink all the milk at one time, and it may be several hours before the milk is gone.
A: Cristy, some children take medications easily, and others are more sensitive to the taste or texture of medications—they may put up a fight or have to be tricked into getting the medicine down. Different techniques work for different children, so you might have to try several techniques before you find what works for your child. Here are some tips:
  • You can mix some medicines with milk, juice, applesauce, pudding, yogurt, or syrup to mask the taste. But always check with your pediatrician and pharmacist first, since some medications lose their potency when mixed with other substances. Also, mix the medicine with only a small amount of liquid or food, since your child needs to finish the entire amount. If you mix the medicine in an entire cup of milk, the medicine may sink to the bottom; and if your child drinks only some of the milk, then he hasn't gotten all his medicine. It's not a good idea to have your child sip on a cup of milk for several hours, because the milk can spoil and give your child food poisoning.

  • Try other ways to mask the taste of the medicine. Give your child a taste of chocolate syrup or maple syrup before and after the medicine. Or numb his taste buds by having him suck on a popsicle or frozen yogurt before the medicine.

  • Use a plastic syringe to gently squirt small amounts of the medicine into the side of your child's mouth, inside the cheek. This helps avoid the taste buds on the tongue. Blow gently on his face to stimulate a swallowing reflex. Continue to squirt the medicine in until it's finished.

  • For an older child, try to encourage his cooperation by giving him choices. Do you want to use the squirter, spoon, or little cup to take your medicine? Do you want to give your teddy bear some pretend medicine before you take yours? Do you want to hold your nose while you swallow the medicine (the taste isn't as strong without the smell)?
Also see the article on this web site, 'Giving Medicines Safely.'