“And a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down…” Mary Poppins
Is Mary Poppins’ advice enough to make pill-taking easier for kids, you might wonder? It appears from research that this is quite a common problem – about 40% – 50% of kids really do have difficulty in taking the standard capsules and pills. The reasons are manifold:
- fear of nasty tasting medicine
- parental pressure
- fear of discomfort
- put off by the size of pills and capsules
- kids’ age and development
- associated with negativity and anxiety
Let’s Make Pill Taking Easier For Kids
Rather than telling the child that she or he has to take the medicine and associating it with threats or punishment, it is much better to make the whole operation a fun activity. In this feelings of negativity are not reinforced and the child will not associate medicine with something threatening or unpleasant. Instead, encourage kids to treat pills as friends and allies who are an essential part of keeping well or getting better.
Practice with swallowing Tic Tacs or mini MMs. You can start with tiny pieces of candy if they have problems at the beginning. You can also open a Gusher and put the pill inside. Kids have no problem in swallowing whole Gushers. You can also buy empty gel caps to put any nasty tasting medication inside
Lots of ADHD kids have to take Ritalin or Adderall capsules. A good way is to open the capsules and add the contents to food or drink. Crushing pills into food and ice cream is not a good idea. Ask your doctor first though as some meds are time release ones and their effectiveness can be altered if they are broken, crushed or emptied into food and drink.
12 More Tips to Make it Easy for Your Child
- Some medications come in the form of a patch. This can help you avoid the issues of having to teach kids to swallow pills although it is wise to check out any side effects.
- Drink water with a straw but make sure that the pill or capsule is actually under the tongue, preferably to one side. The sucking action with the straw flushes the pill down with very few problems.
- Some kids find that using a throat spray helps to mask the unpleasant taste of the pills and will also help them to be swallowed without much difficulty.
- Help make taking pills fun. Encourage kids to think of the tongue as a slide and that the pill can’t wait to slide down into their stomach. Encourage them to think of other games such as Beat the Clock by setting a time limit of one minute or so. Other kids like playing doctors and nurses and giving medicine to dolls and other favorite toys. Encourage them to walk the talk.
- It is always a good idea to get the kid to drink a little water first as their mouths can become dry as a result of illness, making it even more difficult to swallow the pill.
- If it is OK to take the pill with food, do just that by placing a tasty bit alongside the pill on the tongue. This will make it more appetizing.
- Ask your doctor for meds that can be taken fewer times during the day so that the process does not become such a drag.
- Parents have had some success with kids by blowing gently on their faces as that helps them swallow.
- Visual rewards are great. Every time a pill is taken, a star can be added to their chart and this will give them a treat at the end of the week/month/period of medication.
- Getting the kids to drink water from a bottle works because that position will help their throat to open up so the whole process becomes less difficult.
- Invest in a pill swallowing cup. The pills and water are mixed in the cup and the special spout makes swallowing pills a breeze because the pill is not felt in the mouth. It avoids unpleasant sensations of having the pills on the tongue or being present in the mouth.
- Always use cool or room temperature liquids, rather than very hot ones as these may alter the medicine before it gets to the stomach.
See what works best for your kids by experimenting with some of the tips above. Teach kids to swallow pills may be easier or more difficult but a lot depends on how you approach it.