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Health Library

Helping Kids Take Medicine

What if My Child Doesn’t Want to Take a Medicine?

Some medicines prescribed for kids, especially liquids, can taste “yucky” to them.

These tips can help you get your kids to take medicines:

  • Some kids may prefer it if medicines are chilled. Check with your pharmacist to see if chilling the medicine is safe because refrigeration may alter the effectiveness of some drugs.
  • Before mixing a medicine with food or liquid, check with your pharmacist to make sure that it won’t harm its effectiveness. Mixing the medicine with a small amount of liquid or soft food (such as applesauce) may make it more appealing. Use only a small amount of food and make sure your child eats all it to get the complete dose of medicine. Avoid mixing medicine in a baby’s bottle — a baby who doesn’t finish the bottle might not get all it.
  • If you use a syringe, try squirting the medicine (a little bit at a time) on the inside of the child’s cheek, where there are no taste buds.
  • If your child has trouble swallowing a tablet or capsule medicine, ask your pharmacist if you can crush it and mix it with soft food (such as pudding or applesauce). (The effectiveness of some drugs may be harmed by crushing.)
  • Some pharmacies offer flavorings such as chocolate, cherry, grape, and bubblegum to make drugs like antibiotics and cough syrup more appealing to kids. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of flavoring in medicine, especially if your child has an allergy to dyes or sweeteners.

Never call medicine candy to try to get your child to take it. This can backfire, and a child could accidentally overdose by taking dangerous medicine thinking it’s a tasty treat. Instead, explain that medicine can make your child feel better, but must always be taken with you or another caregiver supervising.

If your child spits out or vomits medicine, don’t give another dose — call your doctor for instructions.

And, if your child isn’t getting better or gets worse while taking the medicine, talk to your doctor.