This is a huge deal in our house! My son takes upwards of 8 medications/supplements a day and it hasn’t always been easy to get them in. Here are a few tips to help the medicine go down
Make it part of an existing routine
As with most parenting, consistency is key! Every morning we follow the same routine; wake up, open the window blinds, go into the kitchen, take medications. It’s just “how it is”. My son can predict when his supplements are coming and if there is a fuss I say, “We always take our medicine in the morning, right after we open the blinds” Obviously your morning routine will be different than mine, but adding a medicine time right before or after something you already consistently do (brushing teeth, breakfast, coming home from school etc.) will make it an expected part of the routine. This will make it easier for you to remember it too!
Mask the flavor
Your pharmacist is able to flavor prescription liquid medications for you. Grape and cherry are strong flavors usually able to mask bitter tastes, however there are tons of flavors to choose from! If your child has powdered medications, capsules or non prescription liquids you have to be a little more creative. Applesauce pouches are a great place to hide powders. You can also try ketchup, powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, sorbet/ice cream, and frozen juice concentrate. Using a syringe to administer the medication/supplement will ensure that your child receives a full dose. Read the insert that comes with the medication, or talk to your pharmacist about temperature ranges for each medication. In general, cold liquids are easier and faster to swallow than warm. Syringing in the middle 1/3 of the tongue on the far right or left side will also limit tasting. Eating or drinking something frozen immediately prior to taking medicine will also limit taste (do not use this technique if your child has ever had difficulties with swallowing safely).
Change up the texture
Compounding pharmacies are able to make supplements or prescriptions in many different forms. Depending on the medication type and mechanism of absorption a pharmacist can create lollipops, chewables, topical creams, liquids, and powders. This is a great way to avoid a struggle while making it more pleasant to take a daily medication. Compounding can also remove sugar, gluten, casein, soy and artificial food dyes from medications. This is especially important if your child is on the autism spectrum, has food allergies or specific dietary needs. Check with your doctor and local listings for specialty compounding pharmacies.
Teach pill swallowing
Children as young as 5 are capable of swallowing small pills with some teaching. Start with something tiny! In the clinic we start with a single sprinkle. Test out various ways to swallow the sprinkle. Using a cool liquid or a puree such as yogurt or applesauce will help to mask the texture. Try out different techniques such as liquid in first, or pill in first. Bringing in a mirror will help your child with placement. After they have mastered the sprinkle, slowly start to increase the size (mini m&m, then tictac). Once they have mastered pill swallowing, kids will quickly learn that they no longer have to taste their medicine, and will enjoy a greater sense of control.
Practice without pressure
Practice syringing and pill swallowing when your child isn’t sick. This takes significant pressure off of the situation and allows for some error. If you are working on syringing, start with 1 mL of a preferred puree or liquid and slowly increase quantity. If you hide powdered medication in applesauce or chocolate sauce, be sure to offer it without medicine occasionally to avoid future rejection of this food.
Any time your child has to take a medication or supplement can be stressful, especially if it is multiple times a day! Remain calm, practice when it is not critical, and be very matter of fact and consistent. Work with your doctor and pharmacist to discover the easiest and tastiest way to help your child succeed in their daily medication routine!