Strep Throat . . . pink eye . . . ear infections . . . thrush. These are just some of the joys of child rearing. Thankfully, modern medicine has made it possible to treat these ailments – if you can get your child to take the medicine! I’ve consulted with Pharmacists, Emergency Room Nurses, and Family Practice Nurse Practitioners. Mary Poppins recommended a spoonful of sugar, but we have a few other tricks up our sleeves.
My daughter had upward of six ear infections — before she turned one. Fortunately, she takes her medicine like a champ. My son? A different story. As a mother and a healthcare provider, this is incredibly frustrating. There is nothing worse than a sick, miserable kid. And when they refuse the medicine that can help them feel and get better? It’s infuriating.
Here are a few things that can help:
It’s All About Technique
When giving medicine to a little baby, it’s easiest to lay them on their back. Draw the medication up in a syringe (these can be obtained at any pharmacy), aim the medicine into the child’s cheek, then give the medicine in small batches. You can gently blow in the child’s face to help them swallow. For toddlers, use a similar technique, but allow them to sit upright in their high chair. Caution: do not blow into the child’s face if you are sick!
For the fighters…
- If your child will not open his mouth: Children’s Emergency Room RN Jonathan Krause recommends pinching the child’s nose shut. They need to breathe, so he will open his mouth. This is your opportunity to insert the syringe.
- If your child spits the medicine out: Jonathan recommends keeping the syringe in the child’s mouth, she will be unable to form the seal and spit. You can then employ that same face-blowing technique, which startles her into swallowing.
For busy parents…
How many of us have sent our significant other the “Did YOU give Tommy his medicine this morning?” text? Or in our own frazzled state questioned whether we ourselves had already given it? I offer you — the Sharpie. Once you pull that prescription bottle out of its white paper bag, get out your permanent marker and label it with the number of days and dosages. Keep that marker accessible. When you give a dose, immediately cross it out on the bottle. No need for frantic texts. Just be sure to keep the marker out of the reach of your children — unless you want some additional wall art.
Another fabulous use for that sharpie?
Label your Tylenol, motrin, or other occasionally given over the counter medication with your child’s (or children’s) dosages. This way, when you are fumbling around in the dark at 2am trying to get pain relief to your teething toddler, all you need to do is find a syringe and glance at the bottle.
Make It More Palatable
When amoxicillin and cefdinir were not working to treat my daughter’s ear infections, we had to turn to a bigger gun. This medication would need to be taken three times a day (ugh) and in the words of our Pediatrician, “smelled like fart.” In a moment of panic, I called Kroger Pharmacist Katy Chick to ask for help.
- Ask Your Pharmacist! They can add flavorings to liquid medication. Katy took the time to look up the flavor reviews (watermelon for this medicine), and added that to the medication. My daughter didn’t bat an eyelash. She sucked it down as if it was a treat!
- Offer a Chaser. For bitter medicines, Katy recommends white grape juice, or if the child is old enough, a Hershey kiss. It helps mask the bitter aftertaste (and a little bribery never hurts).
- Hide it. Some capsule medications can be opened and mixed into a food, like applesauce. Be sure to discuss this with your provider or your pharmacist because some medications are time-release and/or cannot be crushed.
Practice Makes Perfect. For older children, learning to swallow pills can be a challenge. Kroger Pharmacist Katy Chick recommends practicing with an m&m. The candy is coated, so it goes down smoothly. Have your child put the tablet in his or her mouth, then take sip of water. With the sip of water in their mouth, have them bend forward and tip their head forward, then stand back up and flip their head back/chin up. This will spin the pill in the mouth and make it easier to swallow. (You can also enjoy watching them perform the “Bend and Snap.”)
Eye Drops & Ointments
Your child has been diagnosed with conjunctivitis. So in addition to bleaching every surface area in a 10-mile radius, you have the pleasure of administering eye drops every four hours. Wahoo!
For young children, consider asking your provider for an eye ointment. Before administering this medicine, wash your hands. Then, you’ll pull down on your child’s lower lid, and squeeze the prescribed amount in a thin strip along the lid line. The child will blink, and distribute the medication. The medication can work even if it’s not applied directly into the eye. Keep in mind that the thick nature of the ointment can be soothing and lubricating, but can also blur the vision.
If eye drops are prescribed, use a similar technique. Using clean hands, pull down on the inner portion of the lower lid, then look away toward the outer corner of your eye. Squeeze the prescribed number of drops into that lower inner corner.
For the Fighters…
Kroger Pharmacist Katy Chick recommends instilling the drops on the upper eyelid, inner corner, while the child’s eyes are shut. When the child opens his or her eyes, the medicine will drip into their eye.
Tips for the Teens . . . and the Rest of Us
Teenagers should be learning to take responsibility for their health and manage their own medication administration. Sometimes it can be hard (for anyone!) to remember to take the medicine—so set an alarm. Whether you’re supposed to take your medicine once a day, twice a day, or (yes, it happens) four or more times a day – put an alert on your phone. Take the medicine when the alarm goes off.
And remember, any antibiotic that is prescribed should be taken to completion – NOT until you feel better and then stashed away for the next time you get sick.
I have found lifting the upper eyelid works great because it seems to keep the ointment in longer. Of course this is with dogs. However, many of your tricks work well with dogs.