Tips on how to give medicines to babies & children

Giving medicines to babies and children can be tricky, especially when they are feeling unwell and are a bit grumpy. Giving your child the correct dose at the correct time is important.

Forcing a struggling child to take any medicine can lead to fear, vomiting, choking or injury. It is unpleasant for both child and carer.

Tips for giving liquids to children

When giving your child liquid medicines use a proper medicine measure to give the correct dose — don’t use a normal kitchen spoon as it’s not an exact measure. Some liquid medicines come with their own cup, spoon or syringe or you can buy a dose measure from your pharmacy.

  • Plastic syringes: These help to measure the exact dose of liquid medicine. Gently squirt the medicine into your child's lower cheek; not at the back of the throat — it can cause choking.   
  • Dose cup: These have numbers on the side to help you pour the right amount. These are suitable for children old enough to drink from a cup without spilling. Measure the dose by placing the cup at eye level on a flat surface.
  • Dosing spoon: These are suitable for children who can drink out of a cup. They're like test tubes with spoons at the end. 
  • Droppers: These are best for infants and young children who can't drink from a cup. 

It’s important that children take their medicines as prescribed. Let your doctor know if there have been problems giving your child their medicine.

For more detailed information see:

If your child complains about the taste of the medicine

Children are sensitive to the taste and smell of medicine. Some liquid medicines can have an unpleasant taste and smell. Here are some tips if your child complains about the taste of the medicine.

  • To hide the taste of the medicine, give your child a drink of fruit juice, milk or chocolate sauce straight after giving the medicine.
  • Let you child suck on an ice block to numb the taste buds before taking the medicine.
  • Get your child to hold their nose  for a few seconds while taking their medicine. This dulls the sense of taste.
  • Offer your child a reward such as a sticker and give them lost of praise for taking their medicine well.  
  • Get your child involved in decisions about their medicine such as offering them the of taking their medicine in a syringe or a medicine cup, or having their medicine before or after bath time. 

Tips for giving tablets and capsules

Tablets and capsules are given by mouth.  Some must be swallowed whole with water, others can be chewed or dissolved in water or juice or put on the tongue, or mixed with a small amount of food. Check which type of tablet you have. Some tablets can be crushed but always check with your pharmacist first to make sure it’s okay to crush a tablet. 
Most capsules must be swallowed whole, but some may be chewed, or opened and then the contents sprinkled in food. Check with your pharmacist first to make sure it’s okay to pull apart a capsule – some medicines may not work well or may harm the stomach if you break the capsule.

For more detailed information see:

Learn more

The following documents have a few general tips that may be helpful.

For information on ways to give other types of medicines see:

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 14 May 2017