But That Medicine Tastes Bad! (Tips for Giving Antibiotics to Kids)

If your child has an infection and is refusing to take their antibiotic, the situation can seem hopeless, but there are a few things you can try to help the medicine go down.

Make it taste better
To improve the taste of your child’s antibiotic, you can:

  • Mix the medication with something else
    Mix the dose of antibiotic with a small amount fruit juice, yogurt, or applesauce. Remember to use only a small amount of food or drink since your child must finish all of it to get their proper dose of medication.
  • Mask the taste by tricking the taste buds
    Try giving your child a cold treat (such as ice cream or a popsicle) beforehand to numb the taste buds. You can also try giving a spoonful of something sweet, such as jam, or maple or chocolate syrup before the antibiotic to coat the tongue. Have a favourite drink on hand to help wash down the taste afterwards.
  • Modify how you’re giving the medication
    Medication that is chilled often tastes better (ask your pharmacist whether the antibiotic should be stored in the fridge or at room temperature). If nothing else works, slide an oral syringe containing the antibiotic into the side of your child’s mouth along the cheek and squeeze slowly. This technique prevents most of the medication from hitting the tongue.

Always make sure to ask your pharmacist whether there are certain foods or drinks to avoid.

Give your child some control
When kids are feeling sick, they often feel a loss of control which may increase their resistance to taking medication. Here are some ideas to restore their sense of control and achievement:

  • Choice – give your child options
    Let them decide if they want to take the medication from a cup or syringe.
    Let them decide when to take their medication (e.g., before or after getting dressed, or before or after their bath).
    If old enough, let them choose to hold the cup or syringe themselves.
  • Creativity – try to make the experience more enjoyable (for both of you)
    Maybe they would love to simulate giving “medicine” to their favourite doll or stuffed animal before taking their own antibiotic.
    Tracking their progress with stickers on a calendar can also be a good motivator.

Be positive and honest

  • Children can sense your emotions and body language so try to stay positive even when your child is refusing to take the medication.
  • Don’t lie and tell your child their antibiotic will taste good, they will catch on fast! Instead, explain how the medicine will make them feel better allowing them to see their friends quicker, or return to school or daycare faster (if applicable).

Establish a technique that works
Once you and your child find a routine that works, whether it involves teddy bears, jam, or stickers, be sure to stick with it!

  • Other things to remember while your child is on antibiotics:
  • Always measure your child’s medication with the provided syringe, even if they are taking it from another cup because measuring medication with a spoon can result in under or overdosing.
  • Make sure you give the antibiotic as prescribed and for the FULL duration of time recommended by your doctor to prevent the infection from returning.
  • Store all medications safely away from children.
  • If there is any antibiotic left over after your child has completed their treatment, dispose of it safely. Ask your pharmacist for the best way to do this. 

If nothing will convince your child to take their antibiotic or you have any other questions about their medication, talk to your pharmacist! They can work with you to find the best solution.

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