Giving medicines at home

When you have to give your child medicine at home, be sure to ask the pharmacist or another healthcare team member to tell you all about the medicine, including:

  • name, purpose and dose of the medicine
  • how and when to give the medicine
  • how to measure the medicine, especially if in a liquid form
  • if the medicine can be given with or mixed with food
  • if there is anything your child should not do or should not eat when they take the medicine
  • how to prevent or manage side effects
  • what to do if your child won’t take the medicine, vomits the medicine or misses a dose
  • who to call about side effects or problems (especially if they happen outside of regular office hours)
Some children find it hard to swallow medicines, especially if they don’t taste good. These tips may help:
  • Ask your pharmacist if there are different forms (liquid, capsule or pill) or flavours of the medicine that your child could try. Ask whether you can crush pills or empty out the capsules.
  • Make taking medicine part of the normal daily routine. It can help to give medicine in the same place using the same method. Be positive, firm and consistent. Explain why the medicine will help your child get better.
  • Be honest and sympathetic. If you know it tastes bad, acknowledge that and say you’re sorry it tastes bad.
  • Offer a choice that gives your child some control. For example, say, “It’s time to take your medicine. Would you like water or milk to help you swallow it?”
  • Give your child ice chips or a popsicle just before they take the medicine. Cold helps numb the mouth and taste buds and can help hide a bad taste.
  • Use an oral syringe with liquid medicines and try to get the liquid toward the back of the mouth. Let your child help to push the plunger and swallow the medicine a little at a time.
  • Praise your child for taking the medicine. This may include getting siblings involved to clap or making a phone call to someone special to tell them how good they were at taking their medicine.
  • Try to make a game out of it. Set a timer and try to get your child to beat the timer.
  • Reward your child for taking their medicine. Examples include a sticker, some TV time, going to the park or something else simple that they enjoy.
  • Some centres may have specialists who can help your child with taking medicines, in particular pills or tablets. Ask if there is someone at your hospital who can help. Your child’s nurse or someone else on the healthcare team may also have learned some tips or tricks over time.