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Caring for a Sick Toddler: Gentle and Effective Ways to Make the Medicine Go Down

We’ve had the wettest monsoons over here this year and while the rains have been tons of fun and great at bringing the soaring temperature down, they haven’t been so great for my toddler. She’s had a runny nose, cough and cold twice and it lasts like all colds for 7-10 days, making her miserable, clingy and cranky. The last thing I want to do is to make her miserable while giving her any type of medicine.

While I don’t like giving her too many meds, I do have to give her something to bring the fever down or reduce congestion. Does she like taking her meds? Not really. But I’ve discovered that a few simple yet effective “tricks” can really help. In the words of Mary Poppins (I think!), “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”.

 So, here are my 5 “spoonsful( yeah, made that up) of sugar to make the medicine go down, make the medicine go down”

  1.  Make a Big Fuss About the Medicine. I’ve found that creating a big song and dance around the medicine and making it into a treat tends to work well. I usually tickle my toddler, tell her that she’s really lucky to be taking the med, offer it around to her dad or anyone else and then, refuse them before finally, agreeing to give it to her. She gulps it down in an instant!
  2. Drop the Bitter Medicines. Sometimes, especially when, they recognize the bottle, toddlers smarten up and don’t fall for the song and dance trick. This happened when we were giving her something for her congestion. So, I used a dropper. Other moms I know use a syringe to simply squirt it into their mouths or tightly pursed lips, for that matter. 
  3.  Find Sweet Medicines. If possible, ask your pediatrician for a sweeter option. If there isn’t any, sweeten the medicines a la Mary Poppins with some sugar or honey or even, chocolate. Hiding it in a sandwich, cake or cookie will work just fine. However, I’ve found that using this trick one too many times turns a toddler off that food completely. 
  4.  Empower and Involve your Toddler. Give your toddler the choice of taking the medicine from a spoon or a dropper, ask her if she’d like to hold the bottle cap while you pour the medicine, tell her what it is gonna do and basically, involve her in the whole process. This is easier when the medicine is sweet or sweetened. 
  5. Play Doctor.  Giving the medicine to her doll always seems to get my daughter in the mood to take it herself as well. It somehow makes it seem less threatening and more acceptable, I guess. Anyhow, try playing doctor or Round Robin with toys and animals before proceeding to actually give the medicine to your toddler.

 Caring for an unwell toddler can be tough on mom and things do seem better when you can give the medicine without too much trouble. These five tips have helped me to give some bitter, some sweet medicines to my toddler with a lot less crying, squirming, running around and yelling. I do hope they help you too whenever you do need them!

 How do you make the medicine go down for your toddlers and preschoolers? I’d love to learn some more tips and tricks. Do share!

Photo Credit: abbybatchelder


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  1. Our pediatrician recommended giving them a marshmallow before giving them the medicine. The marshmallow coats their taste buds and they can’t taste it at all! Now they look forward to getting medicine because it’s one of the few times they get marshmallows.

    • The Mom Writes says:

      That’s a great tip, Ginny! Thanks for sharing it. I’ll be sure to use it the next time I need to give my daughter a bitter med.

  2. I’ll remember those for next time!

  3. I´m a bit late on the discussion (and new on this web site), but let me say that I found some hope to give my girl a medicine after all…

    My 3-year old never had a medicine before. She either refuses or she throws out after having it and obviously my giving up is clear to her. Luckily, she was never too sick, but I always think of the time she will have to swallow something unpleasant. I´ll sure try the tecnics and the marshmellow tip.

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