Medication - Refusal to Take

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  • Your child refuses to take a medicine
  • Techniques for giving liquid medicines, pills and capsules

Wrong Technique For Giving Medicine Can Cause Vomiting

  • Forcing a struggling child to take any medicine can lead to vomiting or choking.
  • Using a better technique can sometimes get rid of the child's resistance.
  • Doctors can sometimes replace a bad-tasting antibiotic with a better-tasting one. Another option might be to give an antibiotic in a shot.
  • Most non-prescription medicines are not needed and can be stopped.

Good Technique for Giving Liquid Medicine

  • Equipment: Plastic medication syringe or dropper (not a spoon)
  • Child’s position: Sitting up (Never lying down)
  • Place the syringe beyond the teeth or gumline. Some young children become cooperative if you let them hold the syringe. Have them place it in their own mouth. Then all you have to do is push the plunger.
  • Goal: Slowly drip or pour the medicine onto the back of the tongue. You can also aim for the pouch inside the cheek.
  • Do not squirt the medicine into the back of the throat. (Reason: Can enter windpipe and cause choking.)

If Your Child Does Not Cooperate: More Techniques For Giving Liquid Medicine

  • Caution: Never use this technique if the medicine is not needed.
  • If your child will not cooperate, you will often need 2 adults.
  • One adult will hold the child sitting on their lap. Their hands will hold the child’s hands and head to keep from moving.
  • The other adult will give the medicine using the technique below:
  • You must have a medication syringe. You can get one at a pharmacy without a prescription.
  • Use one hand to hold the syringe. Use the other to open your child’s mouth.
  • Open your child’s mouth by pushing down on the chin. You can also run your finger inside the cheek and push down on the lower jaw. 
  • Insert the syringe between the teeth. Drip the medicine onto the back of the tongue.
  • Keep the mouth closed until your child swallows. Gravity can help if you have your child in an upright position. Caution: Swallowing cannot occur if the head is bent backward.
  • Afterward, say: "I’m sorry we had to hold you.  If you help next time, we won’t have to."
  • Give your child a hug. Also, use other positive rewards (treat, special DVD or stickers).


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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