When Your Toddler Refuses Medicine
Question:Our toddler refuses to take antibiotic for his ear infection. He hates the taste and each time we give him his medicine he spits it out. How can we get him to take his meds? Thanks.
Usually, toddlers and even preschoolers resist taking medicine for two main reasons. One, it tastes horrible: Why eat something that tastes so bad? And two, they're trying to exert their independence by refusing medicine: Who likes to be forced to do something?
To get your child to be more cooperative, here are some helpful strategies:
Taking your time...
Rushing or forcing your child to take his medicine will only make him resist it even more, so take your time. For starters, help him understand why he should take the medicine. Even though young children can't comprehend bacterial infections yet, explaining to him in simple terms like "this medicine will make you better so your ear won't hurt anymore" can help make him more cooperative. When he finishes his dose, praise him for being a "big boy".
Masking the awful taste...
If your child can't stand the taste of the medicine, try mixing it into food to make it taste better. You're better off using something semisolid in a small amount (ideally just one or two spoonfuls) like applesauce, rather than juice. Try not to mix medication with a beverage because the medicine can settle at the bottom of the drink and your child may not get the full dose.
Alternatively, offer him a sweet beverage to take with the medication in between sips. You may need to avoid foods containing calcium – studies have shown that combining milk or other calcium-rich foods with certain medications such as the antibiotic tetracycline can weaken the dose. Check with your pharmacist for compatibility and suggestions.
Dealing with control issues...
Giving your child choices and responsibility can help him with his sense of control. For example, if the medicine needs to be shaken first, ask him to remind you to do it. Let him choose whether he wants to use a syringe, a dropper or a spoon. Or let him feed himself the medicine with a syringe so he can control the squirts.
If your child still fusses when taking his medicine, check with your doctor for suggestions. He might be able to change prescription to reduce the dosing frequency, so you will have an easier time giving medication once a day instead of, say, three or four times a day.
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