Brilliant Ways to Get Kids to Take Medicine (Even If They Hate It)

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Getting Kid to Take Medicine

If you have a child, you’ve probably experienced the Petri dish effect that happens when you let them leave the house or hang around with other children. They are basically a bunch of Typhoid Marys, unknowingly and unintentionally spreading illness to the masses.

I have two kids, and we’ve survived numerous viral illnesses, ear infections, pink eye, strep throat, and a couple bouts of pneumonia. Probably more, but that’s not the point. The point is, when kids get sick, medicine is often a required part of the treatment, and administering it is not always as easy as Mary Poppins makes it look. During my time working as a nurse in a family practice, I met a lot of little people who were less than excited about taking medicine. I also learned a few tricks. So, how do you get a child who doesn’t want to take their medicine to take their medicine?

Well, I’ll start with the most obvious answer: You bribe them. I mean it, promise them whatever you have to. I stop just short of lying, but I’ve made some ridiculous promises to get a child to finish a 10-day antibiotic with twice-a-day dosing. Just ask my son how he got the Paw Patrol semi-truck thingy. Strep throat, that’s how. Do I bribe my children every day? Well, yes, but typically the bribes are way better if I need them to take medication, so they can survive the plague.

Unfortunately, bribes don’t always work. That’s when I bust out the magic! Okay, not actual magic, but they don’t know that. Mix your child’s medicine with a tablespoon of yogurt or ice cream, then add a sh*t-ton of sprinkles—make it rain sprinkles. The whole concoction should be about a spoonful, so it’s a one or two bite situation. The last thing you want is half a cup of “magic” yogurt they won’t eat. Make sure they get the whole dose of medication, so whatever medium you use, keep the increments small. Once you’ve composed your sugary, sprinkly, delicious potion, pick your power. What does this potion do? Does it make you fast? Does it make you strong? Can it help you read your little sister’s mind?! The possibilities are endless! Tailor the magic to your child’s interests. (Most medications are able to be mixed with food, but double-check with your pharmacist prior to whipping up your potion.)

If the magic spell doesn’t work, or you’re dead-set on honesty, try the pinch-and-chase method. The pinch-and-chase is simple: Pinch your nose, take the medicine, and then chase it with a special drink. Chocolate milk, apple juice, Gatorade—it can be anything your kid loves to drink. This is the favorite option around my house. I normally preface with a strong lead-in speech like, ”Listen, you’re a big boy, and I know you don’t like taking this medicine. BUT, you have to so you can get better. I know your sister could never do this, but you are SO BIG, and SO BRAVE, that’s how I know you can do this. Are you ready?!” This is the part where they either reluctantly agree, or run from the room screaming. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.

Always ask your doctor for other options if your kid hates their medication. Are chewables available? Can the pharmacist add their favorite flavor? Don’t be afraid to ask your doc for help or suggestions. If nothing else works, and you’re forced to restrain them and administer the medicine, let me give you some advice. If you’re using a liquid syringe, don’t squirt the medicine in the back of their throat. I know it seems like this would force them to swallow it quickly, but in reality, it can cause them to choke. Aim for the back of their cheek, if this is your only option. As someone who has done this many times, it sucks. It sucks for you, it sucks for your kid, and it’s exhausting, but sometimes it’s the only option.

If you have a kid who gladly takes their medicine without complaint, count your lucky stars. But if you’re like me and have gone to battle with a strong-willed four-year-old, solidarity, sister. I understand, and so do many other moms. Be creative, keep your chill, and keep trying. As we say in the business, it’s for the greater good.