Does a Spoonful of Sugar Really Help the Medicine Go Down?

By April Tisher

The answer is yes, it probably does. Let’s face it, kids usually don’t want to stop what they are doing long enough to eat meals, so asking them to take medicine, which usually doesn’t taste very good, is an even bigger challenge. However, medications are sometimes necessary, so what can we do to make it easier on everyone?

We all remember the pink bubble gum tasting medicine of our youth. Yes, that’s still around, but there are also other, new and improved alternatives. Most retail pharmacies give you the option of flavor add-ins for your liquid medications (for an additional cost of approximately $3, which is not always covered by your prescription insurance plan). Publix and Walgreens pharmacies offer the FLAVORx brand that indicates they are dye-free, sugar- free, gluten-free, diabetes-safe and hypoallergenic with flavor choices such as: apple, orange, banana, watermelon and grape just to name a few.

Jessica Jonas, PharmD, with Walgreens Pharmacy, explained that while using juice or applesauce to help children take their medication is sometimes beneficial, you should always check with your provider first because some medications lose their integrity when combined with acidic beverages or calcium containing foods.

She also advised in always asking your pharmacist or doctor before crushing or breaking medication that may be extended or sustained release medications. Those type of medications can “dose dump” when they are broken and cause overdoses or inadequate dosing in children. Instead, Jonas said you should ask your pharmacist when picking your Rx (or even over-the- counter medicines) if the dosage can be cut or crushed for easier dosing. Then write those “yes or no” instructions on the bottle itself so that you will remember later when you are trying to treat a fever in the middle of the night.

The method of hiding tablets or opening capsules and sprinkling the contents in pudding, smoothies, yogurt or applesauce can work, but it can backfire as well. If your child doesn’t consume all of it then they won’t get the full dosage. You also have to make sure it is an extended release capsule that won’t affect the dosage delivery.

Other strategies to make dosing children go smoothly, include a reward system for agreeing to take it drama-free. Try giving older children some sense of control by allowing them to choose their flavor or method, my youngest never liked liquid medication so she opted for tablets from a young age and by varying the delivery method.

Maybe your child doesn’t like the look of the syringe and would be more comfortable drinking it from a dosing cup where they have control over how fast it comes out. Allowing them to drink an otherwise prohibited beverage only to take their medicine with, can entice them. I knew a tween who wasn’t allowed to drink Coke, except when she took her required daily seizure medication.

The most important thing is that however it happens, your child receives the proper medication as it has been prescribed. Start out with a positive attitude and have your child listen to their doctor’s instructions about why it is important to take the medicine. That might stop any problems from the start!

*Always check with your pediatrician before trying new methods of delivering medications.