Medicines That Taste Bad: What To Do
When your child is sick, he may need to take some medicines. If the medicine tastes bad or is bitter, your child may refuse to swallow it. The following are some steps you can take to prevent this problem:
- First: Serve the medicine cold to reduce the taste.
- Second: Mix it with a strong flavor (such as Kool-Aid powder or chocolate syrup) to hide the bad taste.
- Third: Have a glass of your child's favorite cold drink ready to rinse his mouth afterward.
- Fourth: The older your child is, the more you can ask for his or her suggestions. Some respond to being given complete control of the spoon or syringe.
Unfortunately, some 1- to 4-year old children vigorously refuse to take medicines, even after you have tried to hide the taste. If the medicine is not essential to recovery (such as most nonprescription medicines for coughs, colds, and fever), discontinue it. If the drug is essential (such as most antibiotics) you need to take charge:
- First: Be sympathetic. Say, "I'm sorry it tastes bad. We can mix it with anything you like." But, also be firm and give your reason, "You have to take it, or you won't get well."
- Second: Give your child a time-out in the corner to think about how he wants to take it. Every 5 minutes, ask him, "Are your ready now?" If 15 minutes pass, take action.
- Third: It's crunch time. You need to immobilize your child. Two people are usually needed. Have your friend sit your child on her lap, holding the arms with one hand and the head with the other. You can use one hand to hold the medicine and the other to open your child's mouth. Open your child's mouth by pushing down on the chin or running your finger inside the cheek and pushing down on the lower jaw.
- Fourth: Insert the syringe between the teeth and drip the medicine onto the back of the tongue. Then keep the mouth closed until your child swallows. If your child vomits or spits out the medicine, estimate the amount lost and repeat it.
- Finally: Afterward, give your child a hug. Remind him, "I'm sorry we had to hold you. If you help next time, we won't have to."
If you have other questions about taking medicines, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended 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.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.