How to give medicine to a child

Most medicines for young children are made up in a sweetened syrup to make them more palatable, and can be given with a spoon, tube, syringe or dropper.

Droppers, tubes and syringes, are often more suitable for babies who haven’t learnt to swallow from a spoon. Some medicines for older children are supplied as tablets or capsules.

One most occasions your child will be cooperative, but nearly everyone has been faced with the situation of trying to give medicine to a child who refuses to take it.

It’s very important that your child takes any medicine prescribed when he is ill.

I think this is the one occasion when blackmail is justified. Be firm, but never harsh, cruel or threatening and never punish a child for being difficult about taking the medicines.

How to manage

It can be difficult to administer medicines to babies because they wriggle. You will need to enlist the help of another adult or older brother or sister. Position your baby so that is slightly raised. Never lay him down flat while giving him medicines because he may inhale the medicine into his lungs.

Using a spoon
1. If the baby is very young, sterilise the spoon by boiling it or placing it in sterilising solution. Hold your baby in the crook of your arm. If he won’t open his mouth, open it by gently pulling down his chin; if necessary get someone to do this.
2. Place the spoon on his lower lip, raise the angle of the spoon and let the medicine run into his mouth.

Using a dropper
1. Hold your baby in the crook of your arm and take up the specified amount of medicine into the glass tube.
2. Place the dropper in the corner of your baby’s mouth and release the medicine gently.

Using a medicine tube
1. Pour the required dose into the tube. Hold your baby in the crook of your arm.
2. Place the mouthpiece on her lower lip and let the medicine trickle into her mouth.

Other methods
If your baby will not take his medicine using any of the above methods, measure the required dose into a container. Dip your finger into it, then let your baby suck it off your finger.

Plastic syringes can also be helpful. Ask your pharmacist to give you one.

Tips for giving medicines to babies and young children
* Get the help of another adult or older child.
* If you are on your own, wrap a blanket around your baby’s arms so that you can stop him struggling and hold him steady.
* Only put a little of the medicine in his mouth at a time.
* If your baby spits the medicine out, get another person to hold his mouth open while you pour the medicine into the back of his mouth and then, gently but firmly, close the mouth.
Giving medicines to older children – checklist

On the whole, children do not generally mind medicine too much and often want to pour medicine out for themselves rather than let you give it to them.

I have listed a few tips below that may help if your child is difficult. For example, tablets can be crushed and mixed with jam and medicines can sometime be mixed with a favourite drink.

Capsules, however, should not be broken.
* Suggest that your child holds his nose while taking the medicine, so lessening the effect of the taste.
* Don’t forcibly hold your child’s nose as he may inhale some of the medicine.
* Mix liquid medicine with another syrup such as honey.
* Don’t add liquid medicine to a drink as it will just sink to the bottom of the glass and stick to the sides and you won’t be sure that your child has had the whole dose.
* Show your child that you have his favourite drink ready to wash away the taste of the medicine, even if you wouldn’t normally allow your child to have it very often.
* Help your child clean his teeth after taking any liquid medicine to prevent syrup sticking to his teeth.
* Crush tablets between two spoons and mix the powder with honey, jam or ice-cream.
Giving drops
Ear, nose or eye infections are generally treated with external drops. It is always easier to administer drops to a baby or young child if you lay him on a flat surface before you begin and enlist the help of another adult or an older child to keep him still and hold his head steady.

An older child will probably be more co-operative and you will only need to ask him to tilt his head back or to the side, while you put the drops in.

Ear drops
1. Lie your baby on his side with the affected ear uppermost. Let the drops fall into the centre of his ear.
2. Hold your baby steady until the drops have run into the canal.

Nose drops
1. Tilt your baby’s head back slightly and gently drop liquid into each nostril.
2. Count the number of drops as you put them in. Two or three drops at a time are usually sufficient; any more will run down his throat and cause him to cough and splutter.

Eye drops
1. Tilt your baby’s head slightly so that his affected eye is lowermost. This way, no drops can run from the affected eye to the other. If this is difficult, get someone to hold him.
2. Very gently pull his lower eyelid down and let the drops fall between his eye and his lower lid.

Tips for giving drops
* Warm nose drops and ear drops by standing the container in warm, not hot, water for a few minutes, so that your child doesn’t get a shock when they drop into his nose or ear.
* Don’t let the dropper touch your child’s nose, ear or eye, or you will transfer the germs back to the bottle. If the dropper does touch your child, wash it thoroughly before putting it back in the bottle.
* Proprietary drops should not be used for longer then three days without consulting a doctor – they can cause worse irritation and inflammation than the condition you were treating in the first place.