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How Do You Get A Child To Take Medicine?


Anyone who’s ever tried to get a sick child to take medicine, knows that it’s a nightmare. They are all messed up from being sick and all ready upset with the world, and now we are fighting with them to swallow some awful tasting liquid.

They’re refusing to take it, fighting and screaming with you and you are not wanting to take no for an answer. Because you know in your heart that they absolutely need to take it.

Nobody’s happy in this setting. You just took time off in your life and went thru the doctor’s office less than pleasant experience. You just dished out money that you didn’t have for the office call and then the pharmacy expense. The child is totally in a bad mood because they are very sick. And now here we are fighting in the kitchen at home. At this point, we realize life has gotten complicated.

So, what do you do? You can jump to conclusions and do a whole bunch of wrong things like I did. Or you can come up with a great solution like I eventually came up with.

Before I get further into my story, let me explain the position I was in. My son is 3 1/2 years old. Old enough to understand a lot of things, but young enough to not understand somethings. He had the start of pneumonia with a high fever and was a sick little boy. I was a worried dad and needed to take serious action immediately.

First, let’s talk about the absolute wrong methods that you could easily walk yourself into. I did all these things before realizing I was creating all kinds of new problems:

  1. Scolding and even a light spanking. Is this what you really want to be doing to someone who’s very sick? The answer of course is no. They need your comfort and love now more than ever. Let’s not give them the opposite.
  2. Just prying the mouth open and shooting in 7.5ml of horrible stuff they don’t want. 2 times a day for 10 days? I don’t think so. What do you want them to do, be scared of you every time you walk in the room? Would you love having someone way bigger and stronger than you do this to you? I didn’t think so. And neither would I.
  3. Mix the medicine into something they like to eat, like perhaps yogurt. Now, even though this seems like a simple and surefire way to solve the situation, you are going down a path a real trouble. First of all, in the child’s mind, they think they got away without having to obey you. And worse yet, if they realize the medicine is in there, which they will, now you’ve lost their trust, maybe forever. They will figure out it’s in there when you keep giving them the yogurt and insisting that they eat every bite. And heaven knows they will taste it in there, remember the horrible taste in the fist place? Your child is no dummy! Now you’ve lost their trust on top of everything else and they’re still not taking their medicine and getting sicker.

After all of the above, I went to work with a serious approach. I called Jerry Wiederrich, a veteran and expert pharmacist at HyVee Pharmacy on South Minnesota Avenue. I asked him for advice. His answer was simple, he suggested flavoring the medicine. He said he had various flavors to choose from. I liked his idea and asked him if I brought my son in to see him, if he would play along with me with my plan. Would he sit down with my 3 year old and work one-on-one with him? Jerry’s answer was: ‘absolutely and he would be ready when we get there.’

Next, I sat down with my son and had a serious talk. In a very calm and loving tone of voice I explained how it was absolutely important to take the medicine that the doctor prescribed. My son understood clearly what we were talking about, but he said in his little shaking voice: ‘but I don’t like the taste.’

Now it was my turn to hear what he was saying and make sure that he understood that I was hearing it, and that I agreed with what he was saying. I told him that he didn’t have to take the bad tasting stuff, but he still had to make his ‘sick’ go away.

I said that we needed to go to the pharmacy and ask for help. I told him that he needed to talk to the main man and explain how important it was for him to take his medicine, but demand a different tasting kind. My son got a big smile on his face and suggested we go right now. He was ready to go do some big business like dad would do.

We drove to the HyVee store and he marched in like he knew what he was doing. He was going to show dad he was a big boy and could handle this. He told me not to worry. As he headed for the pharmacy counter, Jerry saw us coming and was ready. I stayed back and let this little man explain his problem. Jerry gave the little a guy the list of choices and waited for a reply. After thinking hard, the choice was ‘bubble gum.’

Jerry told him to come back in 10 minutes and he would have the new bubble gum medicine ready. While he was mixing the flavoring in, we went to the candy bar counter to pick out our favorites to celebrate our great work.

When we went back to pick up the ‘new medicine’ from Jerry, we thanked him and I explained it was time to home. Now a new fight erupted. My son refused to go home. He said he wanted to take his new medicine right away in the store so he could start feeling better. Jerry said: ‘Let me get a spoon and let’s try it out.’

To everyone’s amazement, mostly mine, 7.5ml of antibiotics disappeared down the throat of this little boy, with him running the spoon by himself, faster than you could say Praise The Lord. Jerry asked him how he liked the taste. He looked at Jerry and said it tasted great.

For the next 8 days my son reminded me it was time to take his medicine. After it ran out, he asked if we should get more. I told him that we didn’t need to because he wasn’t sick anymore. End of story.


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