Written by Doctor G

Childrens Health: Taking a Pill

Dr. G.  My 8 year old daughter needs to take an allergy pill. She hates the taste of the liquid form and she is completely freaked out. The pill is not that big, and I don’t think it should be a big deal, but I can’t MAKE her swallow it. What should we do?

John, in MN

John, this is something a lot of kids struggle with. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to take medicine in the first place (which is for the most part a good instinct!), or because they remember the feeling of choking from some episode in their early lives. Maybe they are afraid to taste the pill (knowing it is probably bitter) and so it is too intimidating to figure out how to get something down a throat without having any contact with the tongue. Maybe they are just trying to drive us bananas!

Whatever it is, there are a few tricks to handle it.

For pills smaller than chocolate chips:

  1. Tell your child, “Hey, this is smaller than a chocolate chip, you swallow those no problem!
  2. Put it in a thicker substance that your child loves, and is used to swallowing without chewing, like applesauce or yogurt or even chocolate pudding.
  3. Teach your child to “cheek it” meaning use a finger to push it to the way back of a cheek outside the teeth (no tastebuds) and then use water or juice to wash it down.
  4. Grind up the tablet and sprinkle it on or in some food she loves.

For larger pills:

  1. Ask the doc or pharmacist if it is OK to cut the pill into smaller pieces to try a method above. A pill cutter costs only a dollar or two and is easy to use.
  2. If it’s a capsule, ask the doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to open the capsule (they usually twist apart) and sprinkle the contents on a food or liquid.
  3. If it can’t be made smaller, or is a capsule that can’t be opened, give your child the choice of pill or liquid.

There is NOT a choice to take the medicine or not. If you and your doc have decided she needs to take this, then that is not negotiable. Her safety is more important than her comfort. You are teaching her to be responsible towards her body in the most important ways.

If you are really struggling to get a child to take a medicine, remember to ask your doctor and pharmacist for suggestions. They have a LOT of experience with this and may have other ideas that would work well in your situation!  Hope the pollen count drops soon.

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2 thoughts on “Childrens Health: Taking a Pill”

    1. That is a fun idea Shannon! I’m pretty sure my kids would decide they needed lots of practice…

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