Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Medication - Giving Pills to Cooperative Child


  • Techniques for giving pills or capsules to a child who cooperates

Call or Return If

  • Your child can't take the medicine after trying these good techniques
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Wrong Technique For Giving Medicine Can Cause Vomiting

  • Forcing a struggling child to take any medicine is a bad idea. It can lead to vomiting or choking.
  • It will also make giving a medicine the next time harder.
  • Learning good techniques for giving medicines is worth the effort.

Over-The Counter (OTC) Medicines

  • OTC medicines are those that do not need a prescription. Most OTC medicines are not needed for symptom treatment.
  • Medicines that are not essential are most OTC cough and cold medicines. Fever medicines are also not required for most fevers.
  • Never try to force your child to take a medicine that is not needed.
  • Most often, symptoms can be helped with other types of treatment.

Fever Medicines

  • All fever and pain medicines come in liquid form.
  • Fevers under 102° F (39° C) don't need to be treated. Reason: lower fevers are important for fighting the infection.
  • For ALL fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.

After Care Advice

  • Many children have trouble swallowing pills or capsules.
  • Fortunately, most medicines also come in a liquid form.
  • Call your child's doctor if you aren't successful with these tips for swallowing pills. Ask about a liquid or chewable form of the medicine.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Techniques for Swallowing Pills or Capsules:
  • Use a thicker fluid than water. Juices or smoothies are good. It's always harder to swallow pills with water.
  • Place the pill or capsule far back on the tongue. Then have your child fill the mouth with fluid. Have your child try to swallow large gulps at a time. The pill will disappear from the mouth.
  • Keep the head in a neutral or slightly bent forward position. It's difficult to swallow if the head is bent backward.
  • Drinking quickly through a straw can also help.
Split or Crush Pills:
  • For easier swallowing, one approach is to split the pill into halves or quarters.
  • Another approach is to convert the pill to a powder. Crush the pill between two spoons. Crushing is made easier by wetting the pill with a few drops of water. Let it soften for 5 minutes.
  • Mix the crushed pill with a pancake syrup, chocolate syrup, or yogurt. You can also use any sweet food that doesn't require any chewing.
  • Note: You can do this with most pills. However, don't do this with slow-release or enteric-coated pills. Check with your doctor if you are unsure what you can do.
  • Slow-release capsules can be emptied. Just make sure the contents are swallowed without chewing.
  • These capsules often contain medicines with a bitter taste. So, the contents need to be mixed with a sweet food. Applesauce or yogurt may work.
Prevention Through Practice:
  • If your child is over age 8 and unable to swallow pills, he should practice. Practice this skill when he's not sick or cranky. (Note: Some children can't swallow pills until age 10.)
  • Start with small pieces of candy or ice and progress to M&M's. Try to use substances that will melt quickly if they get stuck. If necessary, coat them with butter first.
  • Once candy pellets are mastered, pills can often be managed as well.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
Article 2701