You would think that, by now, pharmaceutical scientists would have come up with chocolate flavoured medicine, right? But alas, children’s medicine still doesn’t taste great, which means it’s tempting to follow Mary Poppins’ mantra of, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”, when you’re desperate to help your little one feel better fast. Well, we say if it works for you go for it. Some of these strategies could make the whole process a little simpler.
Disguise the taste
In babies, the mouth is more sensitive than the hands or fingers, and little ones tend to spit out strong, bitter flavours – especially medicines. If your child is particularly averse to strong tastes, it might be a good idea to disguise the medicine with a preferred, more subtle flavour.
These moms tried this technique and it worked for them:
“My older daughter takes tablets every day with juice to mask the bitter taste. She first takes a sip of juice, then pops the tablets in her mouth at the same time and swallows quickly. It works really well!” Amy Lahner
“I mix antibiotics with yoghurt for my kids because antibiotics are the one type of medicine they don’t enjoy drinking, but the medicine goes down much faster with a bit of yoghurt.” Romona Joseph
“Although some people judge me for this, it works in our family. I mix my daughter’s antibiotics with condensed milk and then put it in the syringe for her to drink herself. She really dislikes the antibiotic that tastes like banana and liquorice. However, the condensed milk is so sweet it masks any strong or bitter flavour well.” Nicolene Nel
“Luckily, my 15-month-old loves Scott’s Emulsion, so I often add it to her antibiotics – just enough for her to see the orange colour and then she takes her medicine like a dream.” Shannon Tucker
Bypass the taste buds
Some parents swear by bypassing the tongue (and taste buds) as much as possible and using a syringe to squirt the medicine into the side of the cheek. This makes sense as taste buds are particularly sensitive to sour, bitter flavours.
If you want to try this method, use these tips below as a guide:
“When my children were younger, I’d fill a syringe with the medicine and place it along the side of the tongue by their cheek and slowly squeeze it in. When they got older, I empathised with them and told them I understand medicine doesn’t taste nice, but the doctor knows what to give them to make them better and they believed me. If I was desperate, I’d use a suppository. Also make sure to have a sweetie and glass of water for afterwards.” Raylene De Villiers
Ceritified parent educator and author Debbie Godfrey believes instead of getting into a power struggle with your kids, rather encourage independence and allow them to do as much for themselves as possible. In other words, give them a choice, while still guiding them to do what you need them to do. “Empower your child by giving him choices, not orders, and watch how quickly they respond positively,” she adds.
When it comes to giving medicine, two parents have used this technique and it’s worked for them:
“We’ve always used a syringe and done it ourselves, but we’ve also encouraged our child to give herself the medicine, which she does so well. We found if we gave her the power to do it herself, she felt in control and it was a win-win.” Olivia Thomet-Brown
“If my daughter puts up a fuss, I say, ‘Mommy’s turn’ and then pretend to have some medicine myself. Of course, she then wants what mommy is having. I agree on empowering children with choices. It works in all aspects for us.” Krystal-lee Hill
Use a syringe
This was by far the easiest and most popular way to give medicine – with many of you sharing how you still use a syringe with your older kids too.
Here’s what a few moms had to say:
“I put a syringe into my son’s bottle teat and squeeze. It works like a bomb every time!” Nadine Singh
“My son is four months old and spits out everything! However, if I use a syringe to give him medicine, it really works because he knows and loves the bottle teat.” Nicole Amy Geldenhuys
“The orange syringe that comes with the paediatric Nurofen was a game changer for me. I use the syringe to squirt the medicine slowly towards the cheek. There’s no need to disguise the taste. I’ve used this method for both my kids and never looked back!” Lisa Cronwright
Try subtle bribes or rewards
Although rewards don’t always work long-term (as your child often starts to expect them more and more), using short-term rewards that work for you is a good strategy – especially when it comes to giving your child medicine. Along with the reward, offer plenty of praise.
This method has worked wonders for these moms:
“If I want to give my son medicine, I choose my times wisely. For instance, he loves bathing, so I bring the medicine to the bathroom and when he’s in the bath, I say he needs to get out. When he protests and says no, I tell him that if he wants to have more playtime in the bath, he needs to take his medicine. He listens every time!” Rechael Tamine
“I never disguised medicine, I just used a syringe or a spoon. And if my kids drank it nicely, they were rewarded with a yoghurt.” Natasha Alma Pretorius
“My son hated medicine, so I started associating the colours with things he liked. So, with Demazin, I’d tell him it’s a blue bubblegum milkshake. For Scott’s Emulsion, we named it ‘happy juice’, and we’d call cough medicines honey. Now he loves medicine and I have no problem giving it to him. In fact, this method has worked for both my kids.” Tasneem Bismilla Sayed
Do what works for you
Let’s face it, some kids put up a serious fight when it comes to taking medicine and, in this case, you just have to think on your feet and do what you can to get the medicine to go down.
Here are two techniques that helped these moms:
“My son would put up a serious fight with antibiotics. So, I would have to wrap him up like a baby in a blanket and use a syringe to slowly squirt it into his cheek. He was three years old at the time and I just couldn’t get him to sit still for long enough without the blanket!” Nicky Gerber
“I let my kids suck on ice lollies to numb their tongues, then I’d quickly slip the medicine into their mouth before they even noticed it.” Rene Roman
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.