web analytics

When Your Child Refuses to Take Tablets …

Does your child struggle to swallow tablets?

As a parent of three young children, I know this can be an extremely stressful task … especially when it’s important medicine, where liquid options are not available.  

First things first – understand why your child is struggling to swallow tablets.

These are the most common reasons why your child might be having difficulties:

Anxiety: Children can often feel on edge when attempting to swallow tablets, therefore making the process almost seem impossible.

To help conquer your child’s fear, it is important that you teach them strategies to swallow tablets (you’ll find some ideas below), and regularly practice these with them. Remember practice makes perfect!

Sensitive gag reflexes: Some children may gag when given food that is not smooth, and this is often caused by a sensitive gag reflex.

Ensuring you child is relaxed and takes a deep breath before inserting the tablet in their mouth can often eliminate or reduce their gag reflexes.

Size, shape and texture of tablet: These three factors can affect how easy it is for your child to swallow a tablet.

Using foods such as yoghurt, jelly, custard, ice cream, chocolate mousse etc. can help to disguise a tablet.  However, it is important to check with your doctor or pharmacist if your child’s tablet is safe to consume with food.

Make it Fun!

Try to make tablet taking a fun and relaxed activity with your child. Why not take them out to the grocery store and let them choose their favourite flavour ice cream, jelly or yoghurt!

While you are there you could also purchase some M&M’s or smarties to either mix in with their chosen food, or to practice swallowing whole without a mix in.

Some other useful tips and things to keep in mind:

  • Cut the tablet in half so it is easier to swallow, or trying crushing it in a spoon and mixing with honey (ask your pharmacist if this is safe to do so).  
  • Give your child a vitamin tablet daily, to keep up their practice.
  • Practice swallowing techniques with your child by demonstrating to them how to swallow a tablet. This will help them feel more relaxed.
  • If you child is not a fan of M&M’s or smarties you could also practice with tic-tacs.
  • Sometimes having your child drink through a straw while swallowing the tablet can make the process easier.
  • Ensure your child is sitting up with their head centered and straight.
  • Ensure your child’s head is titled back only slightly as leaning too far back can make it harder for them to swallow.
  • Get your child to take generous sips of water before placing the pill in their mouth.
  • Using milk instead of water to swallow a tablet could also help your child.
  • It is important to check if your child’s tablet is safe to be consumed with other foods or liquids that are not water.

Keep Calm and Praise your Child!

It is crucial to remain calm when going through this process with your child, as this will help them to feel much more comfortable and secure. Give praise and encouragement to your child even if they are not successful with swallowing the tablet.

Most importantly, if your child is getting distressed or being stubborn stop and take a break. You can always try again later once they have calmed down.

If your child is continuing to have trouble, it is worth getting a checkup from your GP to see if there is a physical reason (eg enlarged tonsils) which may be affecting their ability to take tablets; or if your child is extremely anxious about the whole process, a visit to a child psychologist may be worthwhile as they can help with strategies to reduce your child’s fear and increase their confidence at tablet-taking time.