Medication Issues

Giving Medications to Children

All medicines are chemicals. They have wonderful healing properties, but they have the potential to cause harm if not used properly. They should therefore be given exactly as prescribed. A good rule to remember is the 5 RIGHT’S of medicines:

Right child
Right dose
Right medicine
Right time
Right route (way to give)

Remember medicines are chemicals and chemicals taste bad. The more dangerous the medicine the worse it tastes! The drug companies don’t want your child to love the medicine so much he drinks the bottle. Unfortunately the taste is why you end up having a small scale war to get the medicine in. Here are some do’s & don’t to help you win the “war”.

  • Allow as many choices as possible, which dropper or spoon, before nap or after etc.
  • Have a special chaser i.e. soda, a favorite juice
  • Use a straw
  • Give a sticker or use a sticker chart
  • Use limits “you can’t play Nintendo until you take your medicine”
  • Mix with a strong tasting food, (chocolate pudding is a good one) but
  • always let them know the medicine is mixed in
  • Praise each spoonful
  • Be empathetic but firm


  • Call medicine candy
  • Hide it in food unless you tell the child first, (he may never eat applesauce again!)
  • Give in and skip a dose!

Infants are a special category, and really the easiest age to give medicines. If you don’t already have one, invest in either a calibrated medicine dropper or a medicine syringe, each should be available in your drug store. Purse the baby’s lips together and place the dropper in side the cheek, with the lips still pursed, slowly put the medicine in and keep lips pursed until the baby swallows. This technique insures the majority will be swallowed and not drooled out or, as he gets older, spit out!

Lastly a word about side effects. In general changing stopping a medicine due to side effects is a bad idea, unless the side effects are quite severe. The particular drug prescribed was chosen for a reason and is probably the best one for the job!

The most common side effect is stomach upset and diarrhea. While certainly unpleasant, this is rarely dangerous. We are causing it and it will disappear when the medicine is stopped. For an infant, pack more diapers and ointment; for a toddler, run to the bathroom. For other minor side effects, finding similar temporary coping strategies is best.

If you feel either a side effect or the struggle over taking medicine is truly becoming intolerable, a return visit to the office will usually be necessary in order for us to help you find a solution. It can be dangerous for us to prescribe new or alternative medicines over the telephone, without re-examining the child and fully reassessing the situation.