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Getting a Toddler to Take Medicine
We had been warned after Elizabeth’s tonsillectomy that she would need to take both ibuprofen and paracetamol for the first 3 days. Then she would need to take paracetamol for the next step 7-10 days, plus ibuprofen when she needed it.
Me being organised, I had even made a printout rota of times when she would need to take her medicine to make sure we were on top of her pain. By keeping medicine doses topped up at regular intervals, I had hoped that she would stay pain free.
However – I had not reckoned with how my child was just going to refuse to take her medicine!
So what are my Top Tips for Getting a Toddler to Take Medicine?
1. Remain Calm and be Positive
You do need to keep telling your child or toddler that it is important to take the medicine. Older children can usually be reasoned with and can understand. Unfortunately though, toddlers cannot always understand…and can be pretty stubborn. If you are insistent that the medicine be taken, a toddler can be just as obstinate that it isn’t! Cue minutes of running after a yelling child.
Choose a calm moment. If you are calm and positive, your child may take that calm attitude from your demeanour and just take the medicine.
2. Give the Toddler a Choice
A lot of temper tantrums and bad behaviour in toddlers comes about because they are constantly being told what to do. This is really frustrating to them, as they cannot adequately express their emotions in words. So a great technique is to give the toddler some element of control over the situation by introducing a choice.
Ask if they want to take the medicine from a different colour syringe? From a different spoon? Or if they want to take the medicine on the sofa, on your knee or on the bed? They will still have to take the medicine, but they may feel happier at having more control over when and where.
Another way could be to set a time limit for giving the medicine, so that the child can count through this and know that it isn’t going to take that long to do the thing that they don’t want to do.
3. Introduce a Play Element
Maybe try and play teddy hospital. Teddy has to take some medicine. Then a favourite doll has to take some medicine. Finally the toddler gets to take the medicine.
Maybe even let the child take her own medicine by holding the spoon or pushing the syringe plunger?
( I will say that this never worked for us. Teddy didn’t like the medicine either according to Elizabeth!)
4. Improve the Taste of the Medicine
These medicines taste pretty foul. I have actually done a taste test of them over the past 2 weeks. The sugar free ones are quite bitter and even the full sugar versions aren’t particularly nice.
Maybe try adding honey or some chocolate spread to the spoonful of medicine. It really will help the medicine go down. But do watch that the teeth are being cleaned well otherwise.
Our experiences of the last 2 weeks are that paracetamol with sugar was tolerated the best, above sugar free ibuprofen (I couldn’t find an ibuprofen that had sugar).
Sugar free paracetamol fared the worst, and was pretty much always rejected. By day 6 after her operation, Elizabeth was even saying “Don’t Like Calpol”.(other paracetamols are available)
5. Add the Medicine to Food
Now this is where we found our best trick. We added the medicine to some milk, and got Elizabeth to drink it. It wasn’t totally infallible, as she went through periods of not eating and drinking much after her surgery. But we just about got through her 7-10 days of medication by using this method.
By the end of the week though, she was saying that she didn’t like milk anymore.
I will say that I did go one step further than this, and at one point I gave her her favourite tuna sandwiches with a bit of the medicine mixed into the tuna spread. She didn’t eat them.
6. Ask the GP for help
If you are reaching a total blank, do go and visit your GP or doctor. They may be able to prescribe something different, something that is better tolerated, and something stronger that does not need to be taken as often.
I did some research on some of the most popular mum forums, and found that painkiller suppositories are available and are pretty much the norm in places like the USA and Australia. However, in the UK the local chemists assistant looked shocked and puzzled that I had asked. Apparently they are available on prescription. So go ask the doctor for help.
7. See if someone else can give the medicine
It always amuses me when nursery say that they have give Elizabeth some medicine when she has always refused taking it from us her parents.
Why can they do it when we can’t? Maybe it is just worth a try asking another family member to have a try at giving the medicine. In our family I asked my Mum, Elizabeth’s Nana. She often behaves much better for my mum than she does for me.
8. If ALL Else Fails – Restraint may be needed
It is horrible to do this, but sometimes there is just no other way of getting a toddler to take medicine other than holding them. Do have the child sitting up. It may take 2 people, one holding the child from behind in a hugging restraint, whilst the other places the syringe on the back of the tongue or back of the cheek and slowly gives the medicine. Do not squirt to the back of the throat as there is a risk of it being inhaled and choking.
Forcing the issue usually makes the problem worse for next time though, so only do this if it is ABSOLUTELY necessary.
9. Give Lots of Praise Afterwards
Even if it took a lot of time and cajoling. Maybe use a sticker chart, and when the chart is full, tell the child that they can have a toy? Or promise that after the medicine is taken that your toddler can watch a favourite show or DVD?
If you do a fun activity after the medicine has been taken, it is more of a positive motivator for when the next time comes back around again.
10. Don’t Worry if it just isn’t happening
Some days none of the above will work and your child still may not take their meds. At that point do take a break and try again later. Don’t give up, you will get through this. And you are doing a fantastic job!
As your child gets older you can teach them to take tablets, but obviously that cannot happen with a toddler. So I hope this post has helped you when getting a toddler to take medicine.
It has been a tough two weeks for us, but we are finally through the post surgery phase and are already seeing some benefits of Elizabeth having her adenoids out. Hopefully this is the end of her Sleep Apnoea
Have I missed out any tips? Do tell me in the comments below. Or contact me on social media. I would love to hear from you.
I’m taking part in the Mummy Monday linky with Becca from Becca Blogs It Out