How to Give Liquid Medication to Children: A Nurse Mom’s Tips
My son Jett recently saw our APN (Nurse Practitioner) and was diagnosed with an ear infection. The only present signs of illness were a fever and irregular breathing pattern. He hadn’t itched or tugged on his ear the day before or the day of our doctor’s visit. Other than the fever, there was nothing to indicate an ear infection. He is also small enough that he doesn’t know how to express pain. I emphasize this only to stress the importance of knowing your child. Know their cries and behavior. This it will help you know when something is wrong.
The breathing pattern was abnormal for him, but apparently a non-issue. After each inhale he would hold his breath for a few seconds and then exhale. He repeated this 5-6 times at which point he would breathe normally for a few breaths and then repeat the irregular cycle. Our nurse practitioner stated that this isn’t an issue until the child holds his breath for ten seconds or longer, loses color in his face/skin, or struggles to breathe.
This irregular breathing patter was perhaps the main reason we decided to take him in for a checkup. Normally a fever of 102 wouldn’t worry me, unless it persisted and was accompanied by other symptoms. I thought he must have been in pain and was holding his breath in order to cope, as many people often do.
Bear Hugs and Loves
Now we come to the meat of the discussion. The dreaded medicine–BUT it doesn’t have to be. As a mum myself I will gladly take any sound advice that makes my life a bit easier. I’ve put together some of my own helpful tips that I learned during nursing school and through trial and error with my own littles.
Most often you are required to give them liquid medication, whether it is Tylenol, antibiotics etc. So with this in mind here are some tips for administering liquid medication from a syringe.
- FIRST and foremost, read the instruction carefully!
- Wash your hands. You will be near or touching your child’s mouth.
- Notice whether your syringe is marked in teaspoons (tsp) or milliliters (mL). It is very easy to mistakenly give your child the wrong dose. Don’t assume you will need a full syringe.
- Shake the bottle before drawing medicine into syringe.
- For infants: hold the baby on your lap facing out, away from you, near the crook of your non-dominant arm.
- For toddlers: try holding them as you would an infant (as listed above). If this doesn’t work stand or kneel behind them as if you were giving them a big bear hug. I have great success in allowing my child to play in between each small squirt of medicine, while still giving the medicine in the same manner. *These two positions make the infant or toddler feel safe as they are familiar positions used to give comfort. It also makes it easier for you to control your child’s movements.
- Place tip of syringe in mouth and aim at the pocket between their teeth and cheek. This prevents gagging.
- Only squeeze a small amount of medicine into your child’s mouth at one time. This also prevents gagging and the impulse to spit all of the medicine out.
- You may have to remove the syringe between each squirt of medicine to allow your child to swallow. This is what I do and have had great success in doing so.
- If your child spits out the medicine try gently holding their cheeks together, making a “fish kiss”, after giving the medicine. Stroke under their chin while holding the cheeks if your child still refuses to swallow.
- If you cannot control your child’s arms try wrapping them in a towel as you would after a bath and then hold them on your lap.
Patience and Practice Make…Better Sleep
It is likely that you and your child have missed a few Zzzzz’s and patience may be in short supply. Nonetheless, be try to be patient with your child during these times. I know, I know, easier said than done, but it is so important if you want to ensure your chances of giving a child the full dose of medicine each time.
Make it a positive experience. Use distraction if need be by turning on a cartoon or Baby Einstein (can be found on YouTube). And it’s OK if it takes ten minutes to give them one dose. I’ve been there! I know you want to get some sleep and the best way to guarantee that is by helping your child get better. A win-win for all!
As always remember you have divine worth and potential that is infinite. You are a creative being. Think about it–You grew a human inside of your body!
You are a child of God and one bad day doesn’t define you—so keep your chin up and don’t let that crown slip!