It begins as a simple sniffle and swiftly turns into a full-blown viral infection, complete with raging high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Fun. And "making it better" isn't any more enjoyable. I have a child who turns into a wild thing whenever the medicine comes out. Invariably, she hits me and runs away screaming. Soon thereafter, I'm sure to hear incoherent, growling sounds coming from the corner where she's camping out to avoid me. Eventually I hear a tiny voice, "Mommy ... help. Nooooo mecin, nooooo." But by the time I reach her, she's screaming and kicking furiously again.
Patience truly is a virtue. There's still a spoonful of medicine that needs to go down, and it's time to call in the troops. The operation requires all other family members in the household: father ready with the dreaded elixir in hand, mother pinning the child's arms down under a towel (because, let's face it, in all probability this isn't going to work and we're all going to wind up sticky and smelling like banana), and big brother standing by to control the soon-to-be kicking feet.
On the count of three ... GO! We all jump to attention. Somehow, my daughter manages to free one arm, which flails about and smacks me square in the face before anyone can react. Dad spots his one-and-only opportunity to drop the medicine in, and big brother dutifully holds her legs down so she won't kick anyone unconscious. Only half of the medicine hits its mark. The rest is spit out with volcanic force. My daughter squirms away, and we all just stand there for a second, breathless and defeated.
Five minutes later, as we're still yelling things like "you didn't hold her right!" and "why on Earth did you use THAT spoon?" at each other, our angel plays quietly with her dolly, humming contentedly.
Recently I polled my friends with small children to ask how they manage get their kids to swallow their medicine. Here are some of the suggestions they gave me. No doubt I'll be trying some of them soon as the cold and flu season takes its grip. I hope you find some that work for your little patients, too!
Since infants can't swallow pills, most medication for this age group comes in liquid form. Suppositories can work, too, but some parents simply are unable to bring themselves to complete the "task." For our family, though, a suppository provides a quick and easy way to bring down a fever in my daughter. Change a diaper, pop one in ... and you're done. She only complains for a second after figuring out that something about this diaper change was just a little different, but by then the little bullet-shaped remedy is already going to work. When using this method of fever-reduction, try wetting the suppository first for easier insertion.
One piece of advice I heard from many of my friends is to administer liquid medicine slowly. Otherwise you might have to cope with gagging and risk the possibility that the child will vomit. Not a pleasant end to an already unpleasant task.
Most parents suggested trying different methods for administering liquid until you hit on one that works for your child. A medicine syringe works well for some, although in my experience the syringe is a little thick and causes my daughter to gag even before I start pushing the plunger down.
A dropper is another alternative. The only drawback to the dropper solution is that most only hold 1 ml of liquid, requiring the administration of numerous droppers full, depending on the child's prescription. Multiplying the effort by five might make for prolonged agony, so consider the volume of medicine required per dose before opting for the dropper as your tool of choice.
Here's a quick and easy solution if you have a very small child who will take a bottle: Simply place a clean nipple in your baby's mouth. When she starts to suck, fill it with medicine using a dropper or marked syringe to ensure that you're administering the correct amount.
It's important never to mix liquid medication in a bottle of milk or juice. If the baby doesn't finish the bottle, it's impossible to know whether all the medicine has been consumed—and if you have a child like mine, she knows it's in there and won't drink it anyway.