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3 min read

The only thing more frustrating than an uncooperative toddler is a sick toddler who is uncooperative, extra fussy, and in need of taking a proper dose of medicine. As parents, dispensing medicine to our young children quickly becomes a tactical game of strategy.


Some kids are more cooperative than others and some medicines are easier to get down than others. But in the thick of cold and flu season, many kids just get plain tired of taking medicines that taste bad. Some, especially young toddlers, are just too young to understand the benefit of taking the medication.


Here are some tips that can make it a little easier to get your little one to take their medicine.


Give your Toddler [Some] Control

No one -- especially not a sick toddler responds well to authoritative demands. If you expect a fight to take the medicine, try getting their buy-in by letting them have some semblance of control in the situation.


Depending on what options are available, you can try letting your toddler choose the flavor or what kind of special drink they want to go with the medicine.


Choose a Flavor your Toddler Likes

While grape medicine never tastes like grape, your toddler likely has a preference for certain tastes. If the medicine that you need to give is available in different flavors, find out which one works best for your toddler, and stick with that flavor.


If the medicine is prescribed by your doctor, rather than over-the-counter, your pharmacist may be able to add flavoring. Grape, cherry, bubblegum, and honey are common flavors for most syrup-based medicines.


Pharmacies use FlavorRx to enhance the flavor of compatible syrup medicines in order to make them more palatable. All FlavorRx flavors are dye-free, sugar-free, hypoallergenic, gluten-free, casein-free, and diabetes-friendly.


Disguise the Medicine in with Food or Drink

If you can’t alter the taste of the medicine, you can try to hide it. Always consult your physician and pharmacist for the specific medicine that you are giving. While many medications can be safely combined with food or drink, not all are.


Pills can be crushed and added to food like or drink. Small pills can be encased in jello. Try choosing foods that have a strong, sweet flavor. Sweet flavors are the most enjoyable to the tastebuds and are the best for covering up the bitterness of most medicines. Yogurt, pudding, or chocolate-flavored milk are good choices for disguising medicines.


Fool the Taste Buds

If disguising medicine with flavoring or food is not possible or has not worked well for your toddler, there are a few more tricks you can try to improve the taste situation. Give your toddler a popsicle before offering medicine. The cold temperatures on the tongue dampen the taste buds, making it so that the taste of the medicine is not perceived as strong.


Coating the spoon with syrup can also help hide the taste of medicine. Chocolate syrup works well because it is sweet, thick and generally appreciated by toddlers.


Explain Why your Toddler Needs to Take Medicine

As parents of little ones, we sometimes overlook their capacity to understand a situation. Approach the medicine with a positive attitude. Even if you think that it will be a fight, be optimistic. Your toddler picks up on your cues and if you are negative about taking the medicine, they will understand that it is a negative experience and mimic your feelings.


Even if you don’t believe that your toddler is old enough to comprehend, try talking to them about the medicine. You would be very surprised at what they do comprehend. You can talk about what medicine is and why people take it. You can have your toddler practice giving medicine to a stuffed animal or practice taking medicine with small pieces of candy.


One of the most powerful things that we did with our toddlers is that we always referred to diaper cream as medicine. They quickly learned that diaper cream soothes a sore butt and makes it better. Anytime that they had a bad diaper, they would always ask for the medicine. Because of that positive association with medicine, they were more willing to take medicine for other ailments like a cough or fever.



The Takeaway for Getting your Toddler to Take Medicine

Getting a toddler to take medicine can be a pretty big challenge, but it is not insurmountable. Start with building a positive association with all medicine. The sooner that your toddler learns that medicine helps, the sooner they will cooperate with taking it. Use flavors, foods, and other tricks to disguise the taste or trick the taste buds. Overcoming the bad taste of the medicine is half of the battle.