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Tips for Giving Children Medication

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Pill Medications:

Many children have difficulty swallowing pills depending on the size of the pill. Reasons children have difficulty swallowing range from physical maturity to emotional insecurities about the medication. Check to see if there is a liquid substitute for the medicine if possible. If there is not a liquid substitute for the medicine, ask the doctor or pharmacist if the pill can be crushed or broken into pieces to make it easier to swallow.

Some parents use M&M’s or other small candy to teach their child to swallow pills. M&M’s come in “mini” sizes, too, to help children work up to the size needed for the pill.  Be sure you keep track of the amount of candy your child is eating while you’re doing this exercise.

Inhaled Medications:

For asthmatics and children with other breathing difficulties, many of the medications used to treat their disease come in an inhaled form. Metered dose inhalers use the same concept as an aerosol spray can to deliver a medication mist that can be inhaled. There are also several dry powder inhalers on the market that are sometimes more difficult for children to use since they need to inhale forcefully in order to get the medication deep into the lungs.

There is simply no substitute for proper training with inhalers and children. Some physicians are reluctant to give a child an inhaler until they are at least eight to ten years old and prefer to use nebulized versions instead. A nebulizer is a small electric machine that turns a liquid medication into a fine mist.

When using a nebulizer on a small child, it is best to distract them as well as can be expected. Some doctors will allow “blow by” treatments where the mist is blown in front of the mouth and nose. Others insist that even infants use a mask. If you can give blow by treatments to an infant or toddler, sometimes putting them in a car seat or high chair with a favorite toy or a few pieces of cereal can help distract them from the medication. For older children, it is best to use a mask in order to get more of the medicine in their lungs. Using a favorite coloring book and crayons when they receive breathing treatments is often an incentive for children to sit still for the ten to fifteen minutes needed to finish the treatment.

If your physician recommends an inhaler for your child, make sure that the doctor’s office has trained your child and seen them use it before you take the inhaler home. A spacer is a small device that goes at the end of the inhaler that holds the mist in the chamber, allowing your child to take several deep breaths in order to help them get the medication in their lungs. The child can take their time between breaths and often feel they have more control over the disease when they can take the medicine on their own terms.


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