Caregiver Training: Refusal to Take Medication | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program

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How to Administer Medicine to a Resistant Child

Two Methods:

If your child is sick, then medicine prescribed by a doctor and/or over-the-counter may be necessary. In either case your child may be reluctant to take the medicine because of the way it’s administered, the medicine’s flavor, or for other reasons. If you are struggling to administer medicine to a resistant child, then there are several things you can try.


Administering Liquid Medicine

  1. Change the flavor.The pharmacist can add flavor like chocolate, watermelon, cherry, or another of your child’s favorites to many syrup medicines for a small charge.
    • This can even work on over-the-counter medicines which are already flavored, and your child prefers to be flavored differently.
  2. Drip the medicine with a dropper or syringe.You can get a blank (needle-less) syringe without a prescription from a pharmacy. You can also use a dropper. Sit the child up, slip the syringe or dropper full of the correct dose between the teeth or gums within the mouth. Push the plunger slowly so the drops pour down the back of the tongue or into the cheek.
    • Don’t use a spoon for this method. Also avoid squirting into the back of the throat or the child may choke. Try squirting the medicine to the side of the mouth instead.
  3. Deliver smaller doses.Use the dosing cups or dosing spoons that frequently come with liquid medications to portion out the doses over more time. Ask your doctor and pharmacist before you attempt this method. You need to make sure you’re giving the same total dose necessary for the illness, but you can give smaller amounts more frequently so the child is not taking it all at once.
    • An example of this could be instead of giving a child 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of a medicine every 12 hours you give her two half tablespoons (7.5 ml each) in quick succession at the dosing time.
    • The child may think this is prolonging the unpleasant experience of taking medicine—so it could be making things worse.
  4. Serve the medicine with a treat.Ask your doctor and pharmacist if the medicine can be taken soon before eating or drinking or even with food. If the medicine can be taken with food, then you may be able to mix it into a cup of pudding, yogurt, or juice to get the child to take it. Or, you can give your child one of his favorite snacks or beverages such as a bowl of ice cream, a fruit snack or flavored yogurt right after the medicine. Let him know in advance he will get the treat if he takes their medicine.
    • If you mix your child's medicine in with food or drink, make sure that your child consumes all of it.
    • If the medicine cannot be taken with food or drink, then ask the doctor and pharmacist for the time limit between giving the medicine to your child and when he can eat and drink again.
    • Be aware that this method may ultimately backfire, as your child may come to associate the treat with an unpleasant experience.
  5. Talk to your child.Introduce the medicine as something that will help her, and follow that up by asking her what form (cup, syringe) and flavor she wants it in. This will give the child some sense of control in the situation.
    • Don’t let the discussion turn into one where she refuses to take the medicine. If that happens you might counter by saying something such as, “You want to get better so you can play with your friends again, don’t you?”
  6. Use force only as a last resort.If all else fails, you may have to use some degree of physical force. You will usually need a helper for this. Have a blank syringe prepared with the correct dose of medicine already. Place the child on the lap of one person who will hold the child’s head still and level (not tilted backwards). The second adult should use one hand to push down the child’s chin/lower jaw. Use the other hand to insert the syringe between the child’s teeth and squirt the medicine on the back of the tongue. Shut the child’s mouth until the child swallows.
    • There are times that force needs to be used for the wellbeing of the child, but again, this should always be used as absolute last resort. Using physical force can cause mistrust to form between you and your child.
    • You can let the child know he can help next time if he doesn't want you to use force. Also consider giving him positive reinforcement such as a hug and treat (yogurt, a video, stickers, etc…).

Administering Pill Medicine

  1. Place the pill or capsule far back in the child’s mouth.One method is to place the pill on the back of the tongue, and have the child drink water or a favorite drink of hers—such as a fruit juice. Have her gulp the drink quickly and focus on the drink flavor.
    • Keep the child’s head level or bent forward slightly. Using a straw for the drink also helps.
  2. Split or crush the pills.This is one way to break up the dose for easier swallowing. Use a knife or pill cutter to split the pill in half or quarters. You can also crush the pill between two spoons into a powder and mix it into a small amount of a favorite food of the child’s that requires no chewing (ice cream, pudding, yogurt, etc…).Just make sure you mix it into a manageable amount of food — she must eat all of the food to get the full dose.
    • Crushing the pill can be done more easily if you wet the pill with a drop or two of water and let it sit for five minutes.
    • Do notattempt this with slow-release capsules or pills with special coatings. If you destroy the slow release capability of the pill and it delivers a single, large dose, this can be extremely dangerous for your child. Ask your doctor and pharmacist if you are uncertain.
  3. Empty slow-release capsules.Ask your doctor and pharmacist before attempting this, as not all capsules are meant to be opened. The contents can be swallowed without chewing, and are usually bitter, so need to be mixed with the child’s favorite sweet foods (applesauce, yogurt, or the like).
    • This can be messy. You don’t want to risk losing the ingredients. Make sure you have a clear and dry workspace to empty the contents onto.
  4. Show older children how to take pills.For children over the age of eight and unable or unwilling to take pills they can practice when not sick or upset. Provide the child with a small piece of candy or ice for them to suck on. Use something that will melt quickly to avoid items getting stuck in the child’s throat.
    • Work up to candies the size of M&Ms. You can try a thin coating of butter if stickiness is still an issue.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    I usually take liquid medicine, but now that I am 12, my mom makes me take pills. I have a really small mouth, so every time I try to swallow a pill, I throw up, then I get yelled at! What do I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    That is very wrong and should not be a thing to be yelled at or even scolded about. Try explaining to your mom that you cannot take pills normally, and also ask to contact a doctor on this matter. Try and avoid pills until you get professional medical help.
  • Question
    Where can I buy liquid worm medication?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can usually find it at your local pharmacy/ drug store, but you can check online as well if you are having difficulties finding it.
  • Question
    Is that the only reason to close the nose of the child - if the child is not opening his/her mouth?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
  • Question
    What do you do when a child in your care in childcare center refused to use medication?
    Phyllis Dawson Roberts
    Community Answer
    Contracts about medication are the #1 priority, and depending on the type of and why the child is taking the medication, the parents should be made aware of the fact that their child's health is of the utmost importance. If at dosing time, the child is not in compliance, then the parent must find a way to fit their breaks from work in order to dose these precious loved ones.
  • Question
    My son is 13 and severely autistic. He has figured out his adderal is being mixed in his chocolate milk and refuses to drink it. What do I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If there is something he really wants (a toy, game, etc.) you can get him to drink it for x amount of days for the reward of getting that object he desires.
  • Question
    What candies or foods can I use to help my 10-year old child practice swallow pills?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You could use Tic-Tacs, small mints, or Skittles. Avoid using anything larger than that (like grapes) as they could be a choking hazard.
  • Question
    How to I get a special needs child to take medicine?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If the medicine doesn't need to stay intact, try mixing it in milkshakes, smoothies or yogurt. Or you can make it a game. If those don't work, try bribing your child.
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  • If your child is resisting or having trouble with one form of medication, ask your doctor if another form is available. Besides pills or liquids, chewable or dissolvable forms may be available.
  • Always consult a doctor regarding medical care of your child.
  • Consult your pharmacist for additional information on drug information, their interactions, and side-effects.
  • Ask the pharmacy to use childproof lids on the medicine bottles.
  • Store all medicines out of the reach of children.


  • Never alter a medicine, dose, or administering method without consulting your doctor and pharmacist first. Overdosing children could result in serious injury and/or death. This includes over-the-counter medicines.
  • Be sure the labels on all medicines match what’s in the bottle, and what’s been prescribed to your child.
  • Many over-the-counter medicines are too strong for children. Check for children’s doses.

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Date: 14.12.2018, 07:11 / Views: 54472