5 tips to help your child take medication

5 tips to help your child take medication

Getting a child to swallow a pill can be an unbearable, brutal battle between parent and child.

Even though the process can sometimes be frustrating, a new study finds that children who have trouble swallowing a pill aren’t out of luck. Researchers looked at studies from 1986 to 2013 that focused on improving difficulties with pill swallowing for children.

“Pill swallowing difficulty is not an uncommon problem, and there are resources that may be available to children based on their particular difficulty,” said study co-author Dr. Kathleen Bradford, pediatrician at North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill. “Addressing this problem and researching more effective ways to implement these interventions can help improve medication administration and compliance in children.”

Researchers found five successful methods that may help kids consume pills and capsules more easily:

  • Start early: One study showed that starting “pill swallowing training” early makes all the difference. Have the child sit up straight, place the pill on the tongue and swallow with water. You can start off small and then gradually move up to a regular-sized tablet.
  • Specialized pill cup: A cup with a spout for the pill allows for the pill to be released when the water is sipped. Another study showed children also learned how to use a regular cup with practice.
  • Head postures: Swallowing with the head in different positions including chin up or turned to one side worked well for some, according to another study.
  • Throat Spray: Another technique used flavored throat spray to mask the icky flavor and help the medicine go down.
  • Following by example: Children also were taught how to swallow pills by following scripted instructions and using a small pill cup.

Most of the studies reviewed in the paper involved small numbers of children, but high levels of success. The paper was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

Pediatrician Dr. Aaron Traeger with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill., says to take small steps with this process.

“Start small and work up to a larger size like Tic Tacs or M&M’s,” Dr. Traeger says. “It’s also important that parents really stress the need and benefits of the medication to their children. Then they may be more willing to cooperate.”

Related Posts


Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.