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Tips for Administering Children’s Medications

By: Caul Corbell, Pharm.D.

Administering medications to children can be a frustrating, but necessary, task.  Since children often do not realize the reason they need to take their medicine, convincing them to take something unfamiliar is often more difficult than anticipated.  However, following a few simple tips can make the whole process easier for everyone involved.

What should I do if my child can’t swallow tablets or capsules?

Liquid medications are definitely the preferred dosage form of children’s medications.  The majority of children’s medicines are available in a liquid form.  However, if your child’s medicine is only available as a tablet or capsule, there are a few options to discuss with your pharmacist.

1) Is there an alternative medication option?

Pharmacists are the medication experts on the healthcare team, and as such may be able to offer an alternative to the current medication prescribed that can achieve the same goal but in an easy to administer dosage form, such as a liquid.  One of our knowledgeable pharmacists would be happy to speak with you to discuss alternatives.

2) Can the tablet or capsule be crushed/opened to give to my child?

Most capsules can be opened so that the contents can be sprinkled on to applesauce or another soft food.  The same process can sometimes be applied to tablets by crushing them and mixing the powder with food, however, always double check with your pharmacist before altering any medication.

3) Can my child’s medication be compounded?

When we compound a medication for a child at our Collier Compounding Lab, we can take a tablet or capsule and mix it appropriately into a syrup or suspension to create a liquid that meets you and your child’s needs.  We will take into account the stability of the final product to make sure it doesn’t lose effectiveness as well as what storage requirements are necessary, such as shaking well or storing the medication in the refrigerator.

What if my child does not like the flavor of their medication?

shutterstock_336753542All Collier Drug Store locations now offer FlavoRx for your child’s liquid medications.  We have a wide variety of appealing flavors such as:  grapeade (grape lemonade), raspberry, bubble gum, etc., and we can also make recommendations tailored to your child’s medication.  Just ask one of our team members when you pick up your prescription, and we’ll be glad to help you make your selection.

How can I be sure I’m giving my child the right amount of medication?

For liquid medications, ask your pharmacist to include a stopper and oral syringe with your prescription. This allows you to draw the desired amount of medicine directly from the bottle and give a more accurate dose than if you used a measuring cup.  Double check the prescription or over-the-counter label instructions to make sure you’re giving the proper amount and at the right time of day.  It is also a good idea to keep a medication administration chart when giving prescription or over-the-counter medications to children.  Use this chart to document the time, date, and amount of medicine given.  This will prevent “doubling up” doses if one parent is unsure if another guardian has already given a dose of medicine earlier that day.  Be mindful if your child should take their medicine with or without food.  Following this recommendation will help your child avoid unwanted side effects of the medicine and/or make the medicine more effective.  Also, be sure to mind if a liquid should be shaken before administration.  Giving certain medications without shaking can lead to inaccurate dosages because most of the active ingredient “settles” at the bottom of the bottle.

Does my child need to take their entire course of antibiotics?

With antibiotics, it is very important to continue giving the medication for the entire duration written on the prescription unless otherwise directed by your child’s doctor.  This applies even if your child is feeling better before finishing the prescribed amount of antibiotic.  Stopping the medication before then leads to antibiotic resistance, which is a situation where bacterial infections no longer respond to antibiotics that were once effective in treating them.  Also, be sure to discard any unused medication that remains after the prescribed duration.  Most liquid antibiotics are only fit for administration for 10-14 days after mixing.  This is because the medication will not be effective because the strength of the medication quickly diminishes once mixed with water at the pharmacy.  This rule does not apply to all liquid medications, though, so be sure to always double check with your pharmacist.

This is only a brief summary of recommendations for giving children’s medications.  Depending on the medication in question, exceptions to certain rules inevitably exist so it is always important to talk to your pharmacist before starting or stopping any medication.  We are always happy to help so please don’t hesitate to contact one of our pharmacists when questions arise.