CHILDREN, because of their vulnerable immune systems, are at increased risk of getting sick.
So you can expect to take your toddler to the doctor more than you do your healthy pre-teen child. And chances are these visits will end with your doctor prescribing medicine to help your little love get over whatever illness he/she has come down with.
But as if the trouble of calming and trying to soothe and comfort an unwell child was not enough, the nightmare of actually getting the child to swallow the medication is another experience parents wish they could skip.
But when it gets tough, don't get discouraged. Breathe, relax and try these surefire techniques to see which may be most suited for you and your child.
Put the medicine into something they like
Put the medicine in your child's favourite juice. This way the chances of them taking it increases. In fact, while there is a slim chance that the child will notice the taste has been altered, children usually care more about getting their favourite juice. Make sure to run this by your paediatrician first though.
Package medicine differently
Most times a child — especially if you have tried to give them the medicine directly from the original packaging before — will refuse it even before you offer it to them. If you notice this, don't frustrate the child. Give them from a completely different container. You could try an empty juice box or an empty fruit or yoghurt cup, for example.
Don't give them all at once
As adults we like to think getting it over with all at once is the best strategy. And while that may be comforting for us, our little ones could find this quite overwhelming. Dividing the dose could also prevent choking because your child may have difficulty swallowing the entire dose in one go.
Offer a bribe
If your child is old enough, you can offer a bribe because, well, a little bribe never hurt anybody, right? Offer your child a treat, whether it's their favourite food, toy, snack or something as inexpensive as a little sticker, extra screen time or time outside.
Bypass the taste buds
Use a syringe and slowly squeeze the medicine along the inside of your child's cheeks. This way you can keep it off the tongue and the child is less likely to taste the medicine and want to spit it out.
Babies have more strength than many of us can imagine — they will wiggle, throw themselves, attempt to shove the medicine from their faces, etc. And since getting too many people involved in keeping them still can trigger unnecessary anxiety, the best option is to swaddle them so that you have some amount of control over their movement before administering the medicine.
Make it fun
What's better than pretending you're taking the medicine, too? They may be more interested in taking the medication at this time. Also, you can do a fun activity or two after giving your child the medicine so that they will look forward to it again.
Praise the child
Give plenty hi-5s, remind children each time they take their medication that they did a good job, and that they are brave. You should follow through with positive reinforcement even if the child was being particularly difficult when you were medicating them. It could make giving the next dose easier.
Let them help
They don't even have to get older before they make it clear they want to be more independent. They will insist that they have some amount of control over their lives and this is one way that you can let them feel independent. You know your child and his or her capabilities; if it is that you think he/she can manage, put the required dose of medication in an easy to squeeze syringe and show your child what to do. You will be surprised just how quickly your child will empty the syringe and swallow.
Give them when you are about to feed them
Prepare a bottle, or if you are a breastfeeding mama, be ready with your breast. Put the required dose of medication in the syringe, then cradle the baby in your left arm at a comfortable angle (never put the child to lie down). Tuck baby's left hand beneath your arm and recline him/her so that they are flat enough while you hold the left arm against their side with your left hand. If you can, enlist the assistance of your partner or another available adult, and with clean hands squeeze the contents of the syringe inside the baby's cheek while you ready your breast or the bottle to stick in their mouth immediately after. Allow the child to feed because they are less likely to fuss if satisfied.
It is important for parents to understand that the process requires patience, and forcing a struggling child to take any medicine can lead to vomiting or choking. So explore as many options as possible until you find something that works, and if the process gets frustrating, take a break, breathe, relax and try again when the child is calm.