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How can I get my Child to Take Medication?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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Getting a child to take medication can sometimes be very challenging, especially because younger children may have difficulty taking meds. They may have a hard time swallowing pills or may resist medication that tastes bad, as many medications do. Some kids will throw up when confronted with large doses of artificial grape, strawberry or orange stuff.

There is no one right way to get a child to take medication, but there are several methods to try that may help. Note that all methods may not work for all medications, since some meds can’t be crushed or taken with food. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions regarding this.

For the child who struggles with the taste of medications, try teaching pill swallowing. Sometimes half the battle in getting a child to take medication is the taste of liquid medications. Avoid chewable over the counter pills, which may have the same unpleasant results and switch to appropriately dosed meds that can be swallowed with a quick drink of a child’s favorite juice, chocolate milk or the like.

It’s okay to give a treat when the most important aspect is to make sure that a necessary medication is taken. Also, don’t hold out on this treat the first few times a child must swallow a pill. Instead, give it before a problem develops so the first few times swallowing pills are not difficult. Try gel pills when you can, providing they are the right dose, since these may be easier to swallow.

Treats don’t have to come in the form of sugary drinks. You may be able to get a child to take medication, liquid or pill form, if you offer incentive to do so. This might be as simple as offering shiny quarters, gold stars on a chart that will earn a special reward, or even extra time with mom or dad reading a favorite book. If you can associate something positive with taking medication, your child may be much more willing or able to take his/her meds.

Another thing you can do with many small pills is to crush them in something very flavorful. A few examples are cheese, bananas, or a small amount of juice. Make sure the amount of extra ingredient is small so you can be sure the child takes all his medication, and also be sure the meds can be crushed or can be taken with foods. This is not always the case, but in many cases is an acceptable means of getting a child to take medication.

You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t shame a child who is having trouble taking meds, and it can help to view this from the child’s perspective. To them, taking meds may not have a direct result, but to you, taking meds may be vital. Yet if you convey too much urgency, the child may feel under pressure and be less able to do what is needed.

When you’re trying to get a child to take medication, do not yell or lecture if a child throws up meds or is being difficult. Take a few moments, hold the child, acknowledge that it’s difficult and assure them of your love. Then try again, if instructed by doctors, using a method above or one of your own invention to assist you.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon351669 — On Oct 15, 2013

I would suggest a flavoring enhancer for kids liquid medicine. My 5 year old gives me a hard time swallowing zantac syrup and gags on it every time I need to give it to him. It is very minty and bitter.

My friend told me about this product: Flavor+ medicine flavoring drops for babies. I found it online. I tried the grape flavor and my baby stopped gagging and is taking his medicine finally without too much hassle. The product has a sweetener enhancer and a bitterness suppressor and is all natural. It has made my life so much less stressful.

By anon327370 — On Mar 27, 2013

It sounds like these kids are being overly diagnosed with ADD. The medicine makes them feel like zombies and they don't want to take it. Unbelievable that so many people think their kids have ADD.

When my son was eight, his teacher said she thought he had ADD. We put him in sports and that fixed it. His other teacher said he was just smart and got through with his work quicker than others and was bored. Wake up, folks. These kids are being overly medicated. My son is now 30 and is perfectly fine; he never had ADD. He just had one teacher who didn't want to deal with him. Please think about what you are putting in your child's body.

By anon326494 — On Mar 22, 2013

My son is now 18 and when he was younger, refused to take his meds. I had his doctor sign a note and his school nurse would give it to him at school, so I would know he had gotten that dose, and the school would reward him, and I would pop up there and bring him special lunches to make him feel special. This worked for me for the school years. During the summer I didn't make him take his meds because he didn't need them unless he was in school.

By anon159964 — On Mar 14, 2011

Okay then I am not crazy or alone. My 8 year old refuses to take Concerta or any other pill for that matter. We are not talking about a large horse pill, just a tiny pill, but it doesn't matter to her. Every morning we battle over this simple task. Even getting her to open her mouth to make an attempt is a challenge.

We have tried hiding it in food, having her do it herself, various spoon techniques, screaming, begging, grounding, loss of privilege. Doesn't matter! I will give the oralflo cup method a try. Does anyone have a suggestion? It has only been two weeks but my husband and I cannot take this much longer.

By anon149075 — On Feb 03, 2011

Our 8 year old son just got started taking Concerta for ADHD and refuses to take it. He will put it in his mouth and then hide in his cheek or under his tongue. This is only his second day, he swallowed yesterday with root beer but today no go.

By anon144820 — On Jan 21, 2011

My 10 year old son is not taking meds for ADHD but he is taking it as a life saving med. I am having such a hard time because he keeps "trying" but isn't trying. I have put it in yogurt, applesauce, and the list goes on. They are 50 dollars a pill and he again "tries" up to six pills a night. The pharmacist said there was nothing he could do, that he has never had that problem. I am at my wits' end.

By anon123614 — On Nov 02, 2010

Aren't there any answers to this? I am so angry. My 10 year old has a big (loud) mouth but when it is time to take a focus capsule, suddenly he can't open his mouth very far and he won't let the cap into the back of his mouth. We are having huge arguments over it. He says he is trying but he isn't.

When he loses on his video games he tries again 1000 times but with capsules he tries once. I know it is psychological. Will grounding and taking away his TV change anything?

By amypollick — On Sep 21, 2010

These situations call for the services of a compounding pharmacy! Compounding pharmacies can put, or "compound" most medications into another, more easily taken form. They can put the medicine into lollipops, cookies, tasty liquids and in other forms. Many compounding pharmacies will even do this for animal medications, i.e., medicine in a milk bone dog biscuit.

So start calling locally owned pharmacies in your area and ask if they are compounding pharmacies. They may be able to help.

By anon112393 — On Sep 20, 2010

My nine year old son was recently diagnosed with ADD, and we were concerned that his medication wasn't working, but I just found a stash of the pills stuffed into the couch. I am so worried about overcoming this barrier! Help!

By anon87129 — On May 28, 2010

I have the same problem with my seven year old. He already has it set in his mind that he is not taking the pill no matter what I put it in. No matter how much I try to trick him.

I have no clue what to do, and the teacher thinks he should not have a choice. That's fine to think that but he still won't take the pill. Help!

By manny930 — On Dec 17, 2009

I am so happy to see that my son is not the only one refusing meds. I have tried everything! We have tried liquids, patch, crushing pills and sprinkling capsules in everything from a variety of liquids, ice cream, jello, pudding, applesauce, yogurt, cool whip and the list goes on.

I wish it came in a syringe form that I could shoot into his arm/butt while he's still sleeping and blame the pinch on bed bugs! Help! Any suggestions?

By anon31578 — On May 07, 2009

I can't take pills. The doctor recommended drinking something warm to relax my throat.

By anon31493 — On May 06, 2009

My son is taking concerta and it can't be crushed or broken. We tried the pudding trick and it worked until he figured out the pill is inside it. This morning I couldn't get him to even put the pill in his mouth, but I took a deep breath & searched the web. First I got him to practice swallowing cupcake toppings with apple juice through a straw. In the end, I moistened the pill with apple juice, dipped it in sugar & got him to put it in his mouth. Then he swallowed it with apple juice through a straw! Now, we'll see what happens tomorrow.

By mommyfarris — On Jan 14, 2009

I am having the same problem with my 8 year old daughter who has recently been dx with ADD. We just started her on meds and thought she was taken it only to find she was throwing the capsules in the trash. How do you get a child to swallow a capsule? When you know it is a mind set? I have ordered a pill taking cup from the local pharmacy.

By carynl — On Dec 29, 2008

My son is 8 years old and refuses to take his medication for ADHD. I thought he was taking his medication for about a week and come to find out he was hiding it under his tongue and tossing it out.

He is being very stubborn about it. He needs the pills. I can see that. He says they do nothing for him. How do I help him to see he needs it and how do I get him to take them???

The medicine he is on is not available in liquid form and cannot be crushed. Must swallow whole.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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