How to give medications to kids

Any time a medication is given, be sure the correct dose is given at the specified interval for the specified length of time.

Read the label of the medication each time it is given. This is especially important if you are giving more than one medication or if you have more than one child. Dispose of old medicines after the end of the course to avoid confusion or accidental poisoning.

Liquid medicines should always be measured with a syringe. The pharmacy can provide one. 

Pills and capsules should always be taken with a glass of water.

Medications should never be added to a bottle or drink because this causes incorrect dosing. 

Medications in sprinkle form (designed to be sprinkled on food) should be given in a single spoonful of cold apple sauce or yogurt, never on hot food.

If a child refuses to take a medication, make certain that the medication is necessary and choose your battles. For example: Treating a fever with ibuprofen is not necessary, but is done to make the child more comfortable. It can be skipped. However, an antibiotic needed for an infection is necessary. If in doubt, call our office. For tips on giving medicine to toddlers click here.

Many drugs can be added to a small amount of chocolate syrup or flavored by your pharmacist (ask your pharmacist). Do not add the medication to hot food or large amounts of food or liquid.

Prescription medications should be given around the same time each day if possible. If your child’s medicine is dosed twice daily, you want to give it about 12 hours apart. A medication given three times daily should be given every 8 hours. Ibuprofen can be given every 6 to 8 hours, and acetaminophen can be given every 4 to 6 hours when needed.

Special considerations for antibiotics:

It can take 2 to 3 days for antibiotics to take effect, but if there is no improvement after 48 hours, call our office. 

Because antibiotics can cause diarrhea, stomach upset, or disturbances in the intestinal microbiome, it’s a good idea to eat yogurt like Activia or take a probiotic like Florastor or Culturelle daily while on antibiotics and for a few weeks afterward if your child is at least 6 months old. Encourage a diet with plenty of legumes, vegetables, and whole grains to maintain gut health.

Warning: Even if you have taken a medication before, you can still develop an allergic reaction. 

If your child develops a rash, stop the medicine, take a picture, and call the office.

If breathing difficulty, repeated vomiting, swelling of the mouth or throat, weakness or lethargy with flushing, pallor, or hives develop following a dose of medicine, these are signs of anaphylaxis and require a 911 call and a trip to the emergency department.

Keep all medicines out of children’s reach. Medicines that require refrigeration can be kept in the back of the refrigerator on the top shelf if it is in child-safe packaging. 

If your child ingests too large a dose of medicine, takes medicine more often than prescribed, or ingests somebody else’s medicine, call NC Poison Control 1-800-222-1222.