Ever been confounded by a glassy-eyed, feverish kid with a throat so sore they can barely talk, but they just won’t take their medicine? You are not alone, many parents cringe at the thought of struggling with a child who is unwell but pesky at taking their medicine. Giving medicine to children can be a frustrating exercise especially for first time parents.
Below are some of the reasons why your child won’t take his/her medicine;
- Bitter, sour or too sugary taste or texture.
- Difficulty in swallowing pills or capsules (especially for children under 6 years).
- External pressure from doctors/parents to take medicine.
- Some children feel pressured into taking the medicine by parents or doctors. They put up a fight because they want to feel they have some control.
- Uncertainty over the medicine’s benefits. Some children don’t understand why they need medicine, especially if they don’t feel ill and their brothers, sisters or friends don’t take medicine.
- Fear of bullying or teasing especially if the medicine is to be taken in school in front of other children.
- Side effects: some children experience side effects when taking the medicine and worry they will experience them again.
- To counter the aforementioned problems, below are some tips aimed at improving compliance/adherence to medication in children;
Children with difficulties swallowing tablets or capsules
- Talk to your child and try to find fun ways of making it easier.
- Give water or a favourite drink to wash the medicine down.
- Some children find it easier to swallow tablets with a thicker liquid, e.g. fruit smoothie, milkshake or yoghurt.
Dislike of taste and texture
- If your child doesn’t like the taste of the medicine, try getting him to put a little liquid in his mouth first, and then pop in the tablet or capsule. This will make any taste less noticeable.
- Try giving the medicine with food, for example on a spoonful of honey, jam or yoghurt – the sweetness may mask any unpleasant taste (confirm compatibility with your doctor or pharmacist).
Not understanding the need for the medicine
It’s important your child understands why they need the medicine.
Worries about taking medicine in school
Many of these worries can be cleared up by talking to your child’s teachers and coming to an agreement that causes fewer problems for your child. If your child is worried about taking a midday dose in front of other children, talk to the teacher or school nurse to see if there is somewhere they can give the medicine in private.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when getting a child to take their medicine:
- Incorporate your medicine taking into your child’s daily routine by setting a time and place.
- Use a gentle but firm approach, never be harsh about it.
- Ask your pharmacist for a diferent formulation of the same medicine e.g. suppository or a different flavor of the same syrup.
- Remain calm if the child refuses to rake his/her medicine, get someone else to take up the role. • Use a simple choice e.g. instead of saying “it’s time for your medicine”, say “Would you like orange or apple juice with your medicine today?”
- Give rewards e.g. cartoon colour stickers as encouragement.
- Praise the child and not the medicine when they start improving. • DON’T force the child to take their medicine.
- DON’T add medicine to their food without their knowledge
- DON’T pretend tablets/capsules are sweets.
- DON’T make taking medicine sound like a punishment. Look out for a follow up article on giving medicines to children of different age groups: what to consider in the next publication!
Njagi V.M, PHARMACIST