Top Tips on Getting Kids to Take Medicine

Health Bytes

While cold and flu remedies have seen some major improvements over the years, one thing has remained the same: medicines for cough and flu can be troublesome. Every parent will inevitably face the struggle to get kids to take their medicine but there are a few things you can do to help. Here are some tips on how to get your kids to take medicine:

Give kids input. 
Involving your kids with the decision around how they take medicine may be the empowering push they need to cooperate. If a certain medicine offers a variety of flavors, let your child choose their favorite. Give your child the option to take their medicine by spoon, or by a small dropper, in pill form where available, or whatever method works for getting it in their mouths.

Disguise the taste. 
There are several ways you can fool the tongue into not tasting yucky medicine. One thing you can try is placing the medicine within some food if you know that all the food will be consumed and your doctor or pharmacist has confirmed that it’s OK for the type of medicine. If you’re using a strong cough syrup, giving your child a taste of something else before downing the syrup, like chocolate syrup or a popsicle (we’re not above bribery). 

Alternatively, work with your child to let them drop the medicine inside their mouths at the back of the tongue, reducing the amount of medicine that hits the taste buds.

Change their attitude. 
When your child is difficult about taking medicine, it could be because a negative association has developed. It’s time to change the process of taking medicine from a negative place of aversion to something that is accepted as a necessary component of health. As a parent, you may feel like you just can’t win the battle of your child taking medicine, and your frustration with the process may show through. When you take initiative to change the attitude and the mood around taking medicine, you can help change your child’s attitude as well. Try to approach the time for medicine with encouragement, empathy and a small reward where appropriate.

Use visual rewards. 
A child loves to have a sense of accomplishment. When your child is resistant to medicine, try finding an activity they like, such as collecting stickers, that they can add to each time they take their medicine. Have them check that they have taken their medicine each day on a calendar with the promise of a special treat once they have taken so many doses of their medicine.

Teach them to swallow pills. 
Swallowing pills isn’t as easy for children, but when your medicine is in pill form, it may be the best option for your child if they have a strong aversion to syrups. Lead by example when you can by showing them how you swallow your pills, showing them how to place a pill at the back of the tongue, drink water, and tilt the head back to help the pill slide down the throat. Once a child has the hang of it, they may be more warmed to the idea of taking their medicine.

Connect medicine with health. 
When it’s time for your child to take their medicine, it is a great opportunity to talk to them about their health, and the connection between the medicine and how they are feeling. Acknowledge that you understand the medicine is yucky, but tell them how taking it will relieve their symptoms and make them feel better. When you involve your child in deciding how they take their medicine, you can also involve them where appropriate in helping to dose their medicine, and set reminders.

One thing you can do is show your child their health history by using Kinsa Smart Thermometers to show them how the medicine is working by reducing their symptoms. Continuously linking the medicine with their own symptoms will help them better understand why it’s important.

Whenever you give your child medicine, it’s important to understand the dosage requirements and how the medicinal effects are released before trying any strategies that may reduce the effectiveness of the medicine. When you can find a way that works for you and your child to take their medicine, you can get to a place where taking medicine doesn’t have to be a struggle for the whole family!


This post was written by Anne-Marie Fischer, M.Ed.. Anne-Marie is a professional Canadian writer who lives and works globally through AMF Engagement & Knowledge Translation.