How to give your toddler medicine: 6 doctor-approved parent hacks

Do you struggle to give your toddler medicine such as Calpol? We have doctor-approved kid-tested tips from mums on how to get kids to happily take their medicine

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If you have a toddler who hates the taste of medicines such as Calpol or Nurofen for Kids – but they seriously need it for that sore throat / ear infection / high temperature – how do you make sure they have it and don’t just spit it out?

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While we know that some kids actually love the taste of Calpol, many others refuse to take their medicine.

When the syringe and the spoon don’t work…

“Lily HATES the syringe, we have to lay her down on the floor to get any Calpol in her and even then it’s a battle,” says jellyfishpink on our MadeForMums forum.

“She kicks and pushes and clamps her mouth shut. We may get a little Calpol in but she spits it back out! She won’t even lay in our arms and take the stuff. We tried making it a game and that didn’t work and she whacks the spoon away when we try it that way.

“I hate having to give her Calpol but when she has a temperature I know she needs it. How can I make it less of a battle?”

Mums on our forum have shared a number of their great tips for getting your toddler to take their Calpol and other medicines.

We’ve checked with family GP Dr Philippa Kaye who has approved the hacks, including mixing medicine with food or drink, but she does stress that not all meds can be taken with food – although Calpol can.

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“The official guidance says have a juice straight after so it mixes in the stomach anyway. I suppose the only reason not to mix medicine with juice or food (as some of the hacks suggest doing) is to ensure that your child has taken all of it.

“So it may be better to give the medicine and then the juice. If you do give it all in the same mouthful, just ensure that you have got all the meds in.”

And for syringe spitters…

“If you’re using a syringe, for younger children and babies, the key is where you put it,” says Dr Kaye.

“If you put it on their tongue they can spit it out – so aim your syringe between their lower teeth and cheek and give a bit at a time. They can’t spit it out that way.”

Most importantly, however you give your child their medicine, make sure you follow the guidelines on the packaging regarding giving the correct dose.

And if your child has asthma don’t give them medicine with ibuprofen in it (eg Nurofen) without talking to your doctor first.

Kid-tested GP-approved hacks to try…

1. Mix the medicine with something else

As it’s generally the taste of medicine that children don’t like, disguising the flavour is an obvious option – but one that’s simple enough to work.

MFMer Lady Tottington says when her son refused his antibiotics she found a simple but effective solution:

“The only time we had a problem with medicine was when my son was given antibiotics for scarlet fever – and he hated the taste!

“We ended up giving him it in a drink – half a fruit shoot to be precise – because we knew he loved it. I know others have tried mixing it in with a petit filou [yoghurt].”

Mum hayley_plus3 adds “I put it in a little bit of milk or juice, works every time.”

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2. Disguise the medicine packaging

Rather than mixing the medicine with anything, one of the mums on our forum, kyh22, found that simply giving her child medicine in a different packet from the one it came in so it looks like it’s something different does the trick for her.

“If you get an empty yoghurt pot and pretend that you are giving them yoghurt they open up – works for me!”

3. Let them take the medicine themselves

Sometimes, letting your child feel as though they have a little control when it comes to taking medicine can help a lot.

Mum westbrom1 reveals: “I couldn’t get Daisy to take it. If we forced the syringe she would vomit it all back up. So I started putting it in some fruit shoot – it’s really sweet and they can’t taste it… Then a few months ago a syringe fell on the floor and Daisy had one of her usual tantrums ‘cos she wanted to suck juice up it!

“So I said, ‘You can have some special syringe juice’ – and added a dose of Nurofen and gave it to her to hold just to see what she would do.

“She slowly syringed it into her mouth and thought it was brilliant – she then said more!!! It was a revelation.”

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4. Try a different brand of medicine

It’s worth remembering that while there is one brand of paracetamol medicine that’s probably more well known than others, it’s not the only one.

A number of supermarkets have their own medicines for children, too – and flavours vary. So if you know it’s the taste that’s putting your child off, it might be worth shopping around.

Garfield24sboys told us: “My little one wouldn’t take Calpol from a really young age but I bought Tesco’s version – it’s cherry flavoured. Put some on my finger/piece of fruit so he could taste it, and voila – it worked a treat.

“It was just the taste of the Calpol he didn’t like. I’ve tasted the Tesco one and don’t like it myself, but if he’s happy with it then who cares?!”

5. Bribe them to take their medicine

OK, we know this might not be for everyone – but, if you’re up for it, and your child is old enough to understand, sometimes, a small reward might just do the trick. Just avoid it becoming the norm for medicine.

WoWbabies on our forum says: “I was always promised a chocolate milk drink or similar afterwards.”

A sweet snack or drink after administering any yucky flavoured syrup will help take the taste away too = bonus.

6. Try using medicine sachets

As well as buying medicine in bottles, you can often buy it in single-dose sachets. Sucking a sachet can be more fun than opening wide for a spoon or syringe – but check that your child has fully finished.

“We haven’t had a huge issue getting it into my [son] but we never use the spoon. We let him suck it out of the packet,” says FlirtyFilly.

7. Keep trying

As your child gets older, you might find that old battles become easier (and new ones arise!) For example, a toddler who hated using a syringe may have no problem with it a few months later.

Taste buds can also develop and your child could start to become used to a flavour they once couldn’t bear.

So don’t give up, persevere, and you’ll get there before you know it. In the meantime, we hope one of the hacks above will do the trick.

Pics: Getty

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