Children's Health

Spoonful of Sugar Does Help the Medicine Go Down

Registered Pharmacist Offers Parents Tips

Amy Laurent, mother of two, believes there’s truth to the old adage “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Her 3-year-old son had a bone marrow transplant and now takes nine medicines daily. Whether children take a short term antibiotic for an ear infection or on a regular basis for a chronic condition like Laurent’s son Neeko, taking medication is not high on a child’s list of favorite things.’

“Medicine time doesn’t have to be painful for parents and children,” said Diane Sinsabaugh, a registered pharmacist Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Two ways to make medicine time easier is by masking or chasing the taste. It’s better to chase or mask the taste of medicine than to mix it with food or water.”

Sinsabaugh encourages masking for strong tasting medicine. Commonly used masking strategies include:

  • Put the medicine inside the cream from the middle of an Oreo cookie. What child doesn’t eat the middle first?”’
  • “Go Greek” by removing the pimento from a green olive, inserting tablet and replacing pimento.’
  • Have an “Ice Cream-less Sundae” by coating the pill with any topping with a strong flavor and thick consistency-chocolate, cherry, strawberry, caramel or butterscotch.’

The taste of some medicine simply can’t be masked so chasing can be another solution. Commonly used chaser combinations include:

  • “Thin Mint sans the Scout” – made’by putting the medicine in chocolate syrup and chasing with peppermint candy.’
  • “Reese’s Re-Mixed” – made by putting the medicine in peanut butter and chasing with chocolate.’
  • “Smores without a Campfire” – made by putting medicine in marshmallow cream and chasing with chocolate sauce and graham crackers.

“Taking medicine is Neeko’s last effort to keep control,” said Laurent. “Being sick took away his opportunity for choices in life. We really had to work with him following his transplant to help him understand the importance of taking his medicine. He would fight taking it to begin with and eventually spit it out. We had to keep giving it to him again and again. Chasing has become a very important part of his medicine routine.”

Other favorite chasers include: pink lemonade, chocolate milk and Coca-Cola with Doritos. Liquid medicines may not taste good with sweet chasers. If the medicine has a salty flavor, try V-8 juice or lukewarm soup broth.’

“The most important thing about giving medicine is honesty,” added Sinsabaugh. “It’s okay to mask and chase medicine but it’s never okay to trick children. They should always know they are taking their medicine.”