Correct dosage and added flavor are just a few ways to make the medicine go down

Giving infants and toddlers medications come with challenges – from measuring a correct dose to watching your little one spit everything back at you. Brooke Shuster, MD, Associate Medical Director of Inova’s Pediatric Hospitalist Group, shares doctor-approved tips to help the medicine go down.

1. Add flavor. Before picking up your child’s prescription, call your pharmacist and ask if a flavor can be safely added to the medicine. If you forget this step, ask if mixing the medication into something tasty will affect the drug’s efficacy. A few mixable ideas include yogurt, apple sauce, juice, sugar water or chocolate syrup.

Do carefully measure medication dosage before mixing with any other food or juice.

Do not mix the medication into a full serving of soft food or liquid, in case your child can’t finish every last bit. 

2. Measure carefully. For infants and toddlers, the dosage is carefully prescribed according to weight, and even a little too much or too little can be dangerous. Use a pediatric measuring device, such as a measuring dropper or oral syringe. A proper measuring tool often comes with a liquid prescription and if not, a selection is available at most pharmacies.

Do call your pediatrician if your child spits out the medication. Dosage measurement is critical for little ones and only the doctor can say if a second try is safe.

Do not use kitchen spoons. This method does not give an accurately measured dose. If the child squirms, the entire dose could end up on the floor.

3. Positioning matters. If flavoring is not an option and the medication tastes bad, try pointing the pediatric measuring device toward the child’s inside cheek rather than directly on the tongue. This may provide just enough time for a solid swallow before taste buds kick in.

Do squirt small bits of the medicine to avoid over-filling your baby’s mouth, which can increase a natural reaction to spit out a distasteful medication. 

Do not automatically give a second dose if this, or any other trick, fails and your baby spits out the medication. Always call your pediatrician first. It is likely that at least a little bit was swallowed and that may make a second dose harmful.

4. Follow instructions. If there is any leftover medication, and you are sure your baby completed the full course, properly toss out the container.

Do be meticulous about completing the medication course as your doctor prescribed. If you missed a dose, call your baby’s doctor for advice.  

Do not give any leftover medication to another child, even if the second child has the exact same symptoms. There should not be any remaining after the full course, and if there is, be sure to check in with the prescribing doctor.

5. Understand dosing for children. Your baby’s dosage amount for over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, is determined by weight and not age. 

Do check with your baby’s doctor every few months concerning proper OTC medication dosages. A baby’s weight changes quickly.

Do not turn to OTC cough and cold medication, unless your baby’s doctor makes a specific recommendation. Stick with ibuprofen and acetaminophen to relieve at least some cold symptoms. Coughing is how the body naturally clears out the lungs. Stifling that cough can make your baby’s head cold last even longer.

The nationally recognized, 226-bed Inova Children’s Hospital houses comprehensive medical services and specialists who focus on the unique treatment of younger patients.

We have experts from more than 40 pediatric subspecialties and some of the area’s largest programs for children, including one of the area’s largest heart programs with pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery.


Plan your visit to Inova Children’s Hospital by visiting inovachildrens.org or calling 703-776-4002. View a list of Inova’s pediatric services and find a doctor today.

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