Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(5):800

See related article on medication adherence in children.

What should I do if my child won’t take medicine?

There are many things you can do to make medicines taste better to your child. Put liquid medicines in the refrigerator before giving them to your child. If your child will not take a medicine because of the taste, it may be okay to mix the medicine with a small amount of liquid (like juice) or soft food (like pudding). Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your child’s medicine to see if this is okay. Some pharmacies have flavorings they can mix with liquid medicines before you take them home.

Explain to your child how medicine can help them stay healthy or make them feel better. Be sure to reward them for taking their medicine.

Things to remember when giving medicine to your child:

  • Shake liquid medicines before you measure them and give them to your child.

  • Because regular household spoons can vary in size, it is best to use a syringe or dropper made for giving liquid medicine. If you do not have one, ask your doctor or pharmacist for one.

  • If your child can’t swallow a pill, ask your doctor if the medicine comes in chewy tablets or in a liquid.

  • It is important that your child takes all of the medicine prescribed by the doctor.

Use this chart to remember important things about your child’s medicine:

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