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How to Give Medications to Children


Things to Remember

There are some important things to remember about giving medicines to your child:

Measuring Medicines

Liquid Medicines


Syringes or Measuring Cups


Capsules and Tablets

Some medicines only come in capsules or tablets. If a child is able to swallow one, there is no problem. If your child cannot do this then the medicine must be given another way.

How to Mix Medicines with Food or Drink

Both liquid medicine and powders can be mixed with drinks or food. Remember not to put the medicine into a large amount of liquid or food because if your child doesn't drink or eat the whole amount then he or she will not get all the medicine (Example: Don't add medicine to a whole bottle or a bowl or cereal or fruit). Use a smaller amount (1 or 2 oz of juice, 1 or 2 tablespoons of food). Mix with food that is not essential to your child (i.e. formula). Good things to mix with are juice, jelly, ice cream, apple sauce, chocolate syrup or other flavorful foods.

The taste of some medicines is very hard to cover up. If your child really hates the taste and won't take it when mixed, you can call your nurse or doctor. Maybe it can be switched to something else.

Giving Medicines to Babies and Toddlers

  1. Prepare and measure the medicine. Use a syringe or soft plastic dropper, or a spoon for medicine mixed in food.

  2. With the medicine within reach, sit in a firm, comfortable chair.

  3. Have a bib or towel on the baby. Take the baby in your lap.

  4. If you are right-handed, hold the baby in your left arm.

  5. Hold the baby's left arm with your left hand. Put the baby's right arm under your left arm around your back.

  6. Brace the baby's head and right shoulder between your left arm and chest so the head stays still. Tilt the head back a little.

  7. Put the medicine into the corner of the baby's mouth toward the back, along the side of the tongue. This makes it harder for the baby to spit. Give a little at a time to prevent choking and spitting.

  8. Gently keep the baby's mouth closed until he or she swallows.

  9. Never yell or show anger. Speak softly and say kind things.

  10. When all the medicine is finished, hold your baby sitting up for a few minutes and cuddle and comfort the baby. Offer the baby water or juice.

Giving Medicines to Older Children

Older children want to please their parents but they need encouragement and little tricks to help them.

Be matter-of-fact about it but also let your child know that you understand what a drag it is to have to take medicine. Some children will always resist taking medicine. Do not threaten, punish, hit or yell at your child if he/she has a hard time taking medicine. This will only make the situation worse and could make your child feel bad about himself. Talk the problem over with your nurse, doctor or social worker. Working as partners with you and your child, the problem can be overcome. Be patient!

Possible Problems with Giving Medicines

A Word About Pharmacies and Drug Stores

Try to find a pharmacy where the pharmacist is friendly and helpful. Introduce yourself and your child to your pharmacist and explain about having a chronically ill child. Find out whether the pharmacy is open on weekends or at night or if he will open for you in an emergency. Find our whether the pharmacist accepts Medicaid or insurance. Be friendly. Give your pharmacist some warning if you are low on a medicine that needs to be specially prepared. Remember, Medicaid pays the pharmacist very little for the medicines he makes for you. Try to always pick-up the medicines you have ordered. The better you and your pharmacist know one another, the easier it will be for you. Ask your nurse or doctor for the names of pharmacies that they have found to be helpful and friendly.

This article was provided by National Pediatric and Family HIV Resource Center. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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