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Pill swallowing

This resource is for children learning how to swallow pills in 6 easy steps.

6 steps

  1. Find a comfortable place with no distractions. You can try this together.
  2. Let your child choose their own drink. This can be milk, water or a sugar free juice. Make sure the drink is put in a bottle with a sports cap to make it easier.
  3. Start with the smallest practise pill or sweet. Let them choose one for you to take too.
  4. Place the sweet or practise pill in the middle of your tongue. Do not tip your head back.
  5. Seal your lips around the top of the bottle and take 3 big gulps without putting the bottle down. You should have swallowed the sweet or pill!
  6. Try another pill or sweet following the same steps. Never say ‘bigger’ one.

Remember, practise makes perfect.

Top tips

It really helps your child for you to show them how pleased you are that they have taken their medicines

It is important to be firm and consistent but avoid punishments and treats

Make pill taking part of the normal daily routine such as brushing their teeth and washing their face

Try to give them their pills at the same time and in the same place where possible

Let your child have some control such as which tablet they want to swallow first and what they would like to drink

Use stories to help them imagine what is happening such as ‘the waterfall washes the pebble away’

Make the process a fun experience

Try not to bargain or bribe your child

Avoid tricking your child with food hiding a tablet

Instead use food to reduce the taste or help with swallowing such as jelly, milk, ice cream or yoghurt

Avoid thick liquid like milkshake that could slow down the swallowing

What about when my child refuses?

Sometimes children may refuse to take their medicines.

Have a matter-of-fact attitude with them. You expect them to take their medicine just as you would expect them to put on a coat before going out in the cold weather.

Never ask your child if they want to take their medicine. This is not optional. Be firm in telling your child that it is time for medicine for example no other activities until it is done.

If your child refuses to take the medicine, stay in the room with your child alone and stay calm. Your child will be allowed to leave the room and go back to playing only after taking their medicine.

Speak to your medical team if your child is not taking their treatment.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: HVS14

Resource Type: Article

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