How to Get a 3 Yr Old to Take Medicine

Updated on March 15, 2010
C.L. asks from Glen Burnie, MD
19 answers

My 3 yr old has been diagnosed with an ear infection and needs to take an antibiotic. He has always been very healthy, so this is one of the first times we have had to deal with giving medicine. On both of my attempts to give him the medicine, he basically spit it out. Any suggestions as to how to get him to comply?

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answers from Washington DC on

I get a can of whip cream and when they take their medicine I give them a squirt right in their mouth!! (Just don't let the tip/dispenser touch their mouth). It has worked for me for the last 20.75 years! (I have 5 kids that range in age from 21-2). Good Luck!!



answers from Washington DC on

Hi - Bribery and medicine sryinge works great for us! My daughter didn't want to take her antibiotics but with a bribe of 3 M&Ms she swallowed the nasty stuff pretty quick.

good luck and hope he gets well soon!

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answers from Los Angeles on

We have never given antibitocs for anything, but that's your call. My son had 2 ear infections and the first one was clear in 2.5 days by:

1. no dairy
2. no sugar
3. 2 PB8 (a really good probitoic - just opened the capsule and dumped it in his mouth or mixed it with something.)
4. 4 droppers of Echinacea/Goldenroot from Herbs for Kids
5. vitamin A&D

Then the next ear infection, the second he started to complain, we did the above, but got him adjusted by our pediatric chiropractor and by the end of the day, his ear was not even pink inside, when it was super red in the am.

We limit his dairy intake and stopped peanut butter and we have not had another ear infection at all. In fact, my 2 other kids don't eat peanut butter - no allergy, but it can cause a secondary fungal infection, and neither one of them have even had an ear infection.

Good luck.

Antibiotics May Boost Risk for Recurrent Ear Infection
Posted Jul 02 2009 6:28pm

WEDNESDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Repeated use of antibiotics to treat acute ear infections in young children increases the risk of recurrent ear infections by 20 percent, according to researchers in the Netherlands who called for more prudent use of antibiotics in young children.

The researchers found that 63 percent of children given the antibiotic amoxicillin experienced a recurrent ear infection within three years, compared with 43 percent of children given a placebo at the time of their initial infection.

The finding came from a survey of parents of 168 children, 6 months to 2 years old, who took part in a study on the use of antibiotics to treat ear infections. The study results are published in the July 1 online edition of BMJ.

In the group given amoxicillin, 47 out of 75 children had at least one recurrent ear infection, compared with 37 of 86 children in the placebo group. That equated to a 2.5 times higher risk of recurrent ear infection for the amoxicillin group.

However, the study also found that 30 percent of children in the placebo group had ear, nose and throat surgery after their initial infection, compared with 21 percent in the amoxicillin group.

The higher recurrence rate among children who took amoxicillin could be due to a weakening of their body's natural immune response as a result of taking an antibiotic at the initial stage of infection, the researchers said. Antibiotic use in such cases may cause an "unfavorable shift" toward the growth of resistant bacteria.

Antibiotics may reduce the length and severity of the initial ear infection, but may also result in a higher number of recurrent infections and antibiotic resistance, the researchers stated. Because of this, they said, doctors need to be careful in their use of antibiotics in children with ear infections.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about acute ear infections.

Anisitil - This supplement can help to maintain good ear health, and is quite effective in prevention for, and treatment of, ear infections. It will not cure an ear infection, but regular use can help to prevent ongoing ear infection episodes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Most of the liquid antibiotics can be mixed with food. You can try that. Most pharmacies also flavor kid's medicine for a nominal fee. Maybe let your little one choose his flavor? Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

you can get it flavored at the pharmacy or you can put it in a bit of juice , just make sure he drinks all of it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If worse comes to worse the doctor can give him a shot that's a one dose amount to take care of the infection and he won't have to take the medicine. I had to do that a few times when my son was this age but then he realized he'd rather take the meds than get the shot and things improved :-)



answers from Norfolk on

My son didn't like his last medicine, so I had to put it in applesauce and he could still taste it, but he finished it. I had my doctor call in another dose and had flavor added to it at Walgreen's. He has not had problems before, but it your little is taking amoxicillin (sp?) it's pretty nasty.


answers from Washington DC on

My daughter LOVES the strawberry flavored liquid, but when she was 3, she hated it and I'd mix it with some ice cream. It made it taste like strawberry ice cream and she had it twice a day for 10 days! (Very little ice cream with thicken up the 5 ml of liquid.) It's worth a try. Hopefully he'll eventually be like my dd and take it straight. (Or never have to take it again--slim chance though). Good luck!



answers from Huntsville on

I agree with the post on natural remedy but with caution! Since your toddler hasn't had many bouts of illness with a need for medication, even if you choose the natural route, talk it over with your pediatrician and monitor him closely for relief of symptoms. I personally never flavored my children's medicine or mixed it in juice or food. I talked to them to explain, on their level, that the medicine is needed for them to get better. I told them it was not going to taste good but usually gave them their favorite fruit afterwards to get rid of the yucky taste. Some parents may disagree but try being a medical professional in the emergency room trying to get a 13 year old (YES 13!) to take liquid Motrin. His medicine had always been flavored or mixed with something so he was not used to simply taking the medicine. As parents, we have to consider how everything we do will affect our children in the future. I hope your toddler doesn't have recurring problems.



answers from Washington DC on

My son never wanted to take his medicine, but loved being read to. So we would sit with a book and we we got to the end the page he would have to take a little of the medicine to keep me reading. Also, if it is amoxicillin it can be taken with food. Try mixing it in applesauce, ice cream or something else he likes to eat. Ask your pharmacist if it okay to mix food with his prescription first, though. Most pharmacies also can mix different flavors into the it. You just have to ask. That may help it go down.



answers from Washington DC on

With each of my 3 girls, we've done a "take a little medicine, and take a drink to wash it down." Sometimes we've also added a snack/treat to the task, but it depends on the child. The other thing I've attempted is to get the medicine flavored at the pharmacy. That can sometimes go a long way to helping it go down.

Good Luck!



answers from Washington DC on

This is probably not the best suggestion but it works for me - since my kids (ages 6 an 8) are only allowed to have soda on special occasions it is always a big deal when I let them have it. In order to get them to take meds I put about a half cup of soda (usually coke) in a glass, pour in the medicine, and they drink it with a straw. Sounds gross to me but they get it down and that's all I need.



answers from Richmond on

My 3 year old hates to take meds. I have to fight him. Nothing works except taking the meds and using a syringe, squirting it into his cheek. He has no choice but to swallow. He also has an ear infection right now and has to take an antibiotic. My sister and I called it "The Good Pink Stuff" if you got amoxicillin. If it was penicillin, we called it "The bad Pink Stuff" because back then they didn't have flavoring for it. Anyway, those tricks worked for us. Hope that helps.



answers from Washington DC on

careful because you don't say what kind it is and dairy can affect how some of them work. in that case i've good luck with applesauce but you really need to ask your doc who will let you know what foods to not mix with this med. good luck and don't forget to keep him on it for the full course.



answers from Washington DC on

I have teens but have just learned this trick for myself as i now take lemon cod liver oil (really!). Right under the tongue is a "well". I put the cod liver oil in the well and then take a drink to wash it down. I never really taste the stuff and it also avoids getting oil in my entire mouth. This may be too much for a 3-year old, but it's worth a try.

Also, with my kids, i always offered a treat right after the medicine. At one point, it was literally a spoonful of sugar immediately as it completely masks the taste (my kids have actually thrown-up after taking medicine). We also at one point mixed the medicine with something - like pudding.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

I tell him he has to take it and that it is his job to take it. I also give him a big bite of ice cream first to numb and coat his tongue, give the medicine and than another big bite of ice cream to take the taste away. It is pretty nasty tasting, tastes like flavored chalk or flavored concrete, even with the flavoring the pharmacy adds. Can he do chewables? My son is on antibiotics 5-6 times a year so he got to be a pro at it. Good luck.



answers from Boston on

Mix it with his Juice so he can not taste it. Thats what I used to do.



answers from Knoxville on

Hi C.,
I feel for you!!! Getting our 3 year old son to take medicine is quite the task. Here are some things we have tried that worked:
1. bribe with chocolate or candy as the reward for taking the medicine
2. tell him it is super hero juice (or something creative like that) - you wouldn't think it would work, but it does!!
3. let him drink it through a straw or a special cup, combine with you pretending like you are drinking it also
4. try putting medicine in a syringe and squirting to the back along the inside of the cheek - it makes it harder for them to spit out

Good luck!!!


answers from Austin on

One thing you can try is having him swish with ice water before taking it, it might numb his tongue a little bit.

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