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This information is approved and/or reviewed by U-M Health System providers but it is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for medical treatment. You should speak to your physician or make an appointment to be seen if you have questions or concerns about this information or your medical condition.
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Giving Medications to Children

Medicines work best when given correctly:

  • Right dose
  • Right time
  • Right way      

The more you learn about your child’s medicine and the more careful you are, the safer your child will be.

Always feel free to ask questions about your child’s medicine.     

What should I know?

Each time a new medicine is prescribed, to ask the doctor or pharmacist:

  • Name and purpose of the medicine
  • What it looks like
  • How much to give
  • When and how to give it
  • How often and for how long to give it
  • What to do if medicine is thrown up
  • How it interacts with foods, other medicines, or other medical conditions
  • Side effects that may occur
  • Side effects to call the doctor about

Measuring Medications:

Liquid medications:
USE the following:

  • Syringes and oral droppers
  • Dosing spoons
  • Medication Cups

DO NOT use standard tableware tablespoons or teaspoons because they are usually not accurate.

Giving medicines to a child

Your child should be awake and alert when taking any medicine.  Here are some ways to give medicine to children:

Liquid medicine:

  • Shake well immediately before giving to your child.
  • Read the label on the container-for the exact amount to give
  • Use medicine dropper, oral syringe, medicine cup or medicine spoon.
  • Infants:
    • Place in small amount of breast milk or formula.
      • DO NOT add medicine to the whole bottle.
    • Give the medicine first, before the feeding.
    • Squirt small amounts of the medicine into the side of the cheek, while infant is sucking on pacifier or nipple.
  • Children:
    • Squirt small amount of medicine in side of cheek. 
    • Use medicine cup or medicine spoon.

Pills and Capsules:

For children who cannot swallow pills, check with the pharmacist whether it is okay to crush the tablet or open the capsule.

If it is okay, you can do the following:

  • Tablets can be crushed
    • Between 2 spoons
    • Inside a plastic bag
    • In folded paper
  • Capsules can be opened
    • Do not crush the little beads.
  • Mix the powder in a very small amount of soft food, such as pudding or applesauce.
  • Make sure your child takes all of the mixture.

Tips to help give medicines:

It is not always easy to give medications to children.

  • Use a calm, firm approach.
  • Be honest and sympathetic.
  • Explain the need to take the medication.
  • Praise a child for taking medicine.
  • Incorporate taking medicine into a routine.

Using Medications Safely:

Medicines work best when given the right way.  Always read the label.  Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you have questions.

  • Avoid calling the medicine candy.
  • Store all medicines in their original containers.
  • Store medications as directed:
    • Away from direct sunlight or heat.
    • Refrigerate if need.
  • Do not store in humid places such as the bathroom.
  • Always request childproof medicine bottles/containers.
  • Keep them out of the reach of children.
  • Always finish the prescribed course.
    • Always give all doses prescribed. If the RX says 5 days, give the medicine for all 5 days.
  • Never give your child leftover medicine.
    • Call your doctor/clinic if you think your child needs a new prescription.
  • Never use one child’s medicine for another child.
  • Protect against POISONING
    • Flush all leftover medicine down the toilet
    • Teach child the meaning of the “skulls and crossbones”

When to call for medical help:

  • For swelling, trouble breathing, seizure, or unconsciousness, call 911
  • For rash or other side effects, call the doctor/clinic or pharmacist.  Do not stop giving the medicine without asking first.
  • If too much or the wrong kind of medicine is taken, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. 

Visit the following Web sites for more information:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Consumer Healthcare Products Association



Created by Robin Jahnke RN, BS, UMHS, April 2007

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