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Maybe Mary Poppins Did Have a Point…

12th Jul 2005

Maybe Mary Poppins did have a point: a spoonful of sugar can help the medicine go down.
There are a number of reasons why children dislike taking medicine, but the biggest culprit is usually the taste. Often the cure can, for the moment, seem worse than the illness — especially when you’re little. But today’s generation is luckier than most of us (us being the generation that plugged our noses, held our breath and swallowed — quickly). Today’s medicines come in a multitude of flavors (from root beer to bubble gum); types (from gel caps to fast-dissolve tablets to liquid); and innovative new kid-friendly products (like Dimetapp’s Bear Lollipops).

If you’re having problems getting your child to take their medicine, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Pharmacy has some great tips to help make your child’s medicine go down more smoothly.

• Have your child suck on a Popsicle or something cold to ‘numb’ their taste buds before taking the medication and always have something on hand for your child to drink or swallow after.

• Some medications can be crushed and mixed in with food such as apple sauce or yogurt or with drinks such as Kool-Aid to mask the taste. But be careful, some medications can’t be crushed or have to be taken on an empty stomach, so check with your pharmacist first. Also, keep in mind if your child does not eat all of the food or drink the entire beverage then some of the dose is lost.

• Medication in a liquid form comes into contact with taste buds much more quickly than medications in either capsules or tablets. So, if your child is old enough and can swallow capsules or tablets, give them a try.

Keep in mind that capsules or tablets can be a challenge for children. To teach your child how to take them easily try having them drink thick milk shakes with small pieces of strawberries or other fruit in them so that they get used to swallowing lumps of food first.

Before you give your child a capsule or tablet, give them something to drink first to prevent it from sticking in a dry throat. Then, place the capsule or tablet in the centre of the tongue towards the back of the mouth and have the child drink through a straw. Sucking the beverage up through a straw provides a little extra momentum to wash the capsule or tablet down the throat. The flexible straws are nice because your child can tip his or her head back a little to help the capsule or tablet go down.

Being sick is no fun, but getting the medicine down smoothly helps everyone get on the road to recovery faster.

More Tips Please . . .

Make sure you understand the instructions on the prescriptions. Let the doctor and pharmacist know of any drug or food allergies that your child may have.

The most important rule is to measure the medicine accurately and to give the right dose at the right time interval. Use an oral syringe or a properly labeled measuring spoon from a pharmacy, not a kitchen spoon. There are also some great devices to help make giving medicine easier including pill splitters, pill crushers and bottle caps with syringes.

Keep medications out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. The bathroom is not a good place to store medication. The humidity and heat may affect some medications.

Never refer to medication as candy to encourage children to take it. The risk is too great that children may misunderstand and take an overdose or poison themselves.

by Ellen Percival and Sherry Kerr, publishers, Calgary’s Child Magazine

Reprinted with permission by Calgary’s Child Magazine, Calgary’s most trusted parenting publication. Pick it up at over 600 locations for more information call 241-6066 or visit

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