Helping the Medicine Go Down
Being sick is no fun. Adding pills to the ordeal can make a child's sickness even more stressful - and make life more difficult for parents, too - when a child refuses to swallow a pill or gags on it. Use these tips to ease the pill-swallowing process:

  • Stay positive! Be encouraging, and assume that your child can handle it.
  • Some pills can be crushed up and mixed into sweet drinks, applesauce, pudding, ice cream or Cool Whip. A support group for parents of kids with cancer says chocolate syrup can disguise the taste of even the bitterest pills: crush them up, mix them with the syrup and pour it over ice cream. However, some pills have a time-release function and must be swallowed whole, so check with your doctor or pharmacist first before trying this!
  • If the pill has to be swallowed whole, drink a beverage with it. Try having your child sip water, milk or juice through a straw with the pill on her tongue. Straws are a fun distraction; your child may be less likely to feel the pill going down.

    Or, put a little liquid into her mouth, place the pill on her tongue, and tilt her head forward so the pill floats up toward her throat, which feels more natural than it would if she tilted her head back.
    Soft drinks can serve as a treat, settle the stomach and help get a pill down - all at once. Many parents (and this writer!) attest to the magic powers of Coca-Cola when the medicine just won't go down.
  • Try putting the pill into chewed food. Have the child chew a mouthful of cookie or bread, place the pill into the middle of the chewed food and then swallow.

    Trying to teach your child how to swallow pills once and for all? Many doctors and moms recommend having older kids practice swallowing tiny candies to work up to pills. Make a game of it: start with tiny colored sprinkles, move up to Tic-Tacs or cake decorations, and finally up to mini M&M's.
If, after all of these attempts, your child still struggles, don't despair: many kids under age 10 have trouble with pills. As they get older and their oral-motor skills improve, nearly everyone learns eventually. Until then, ask your doctor if liquid versions of the medication are available.

- Dana Morgenstein