Q&A: Giving a 3-year-old medicine

Update on my back: As I suspected, it's psychosomatic (totally went away while I was on vacation and then returned within an hour of being back in the city) but is also real: muscle cramps in the pyriformis region. Treatment: Start actually doing T-Tapp again instead of just talking about it (funny how talking about exercise doesn't actually do anything for your body) and a really painful massage that worked out all the cramps. I'm still not pain-free but the pain seems to be moving out of my body by the day.

And now for a parenting question. BlueBird Mama writes:

"I've run into a big challenge around medicine with my 3 year old.  He doesn't get sick very often or have to go to the doctor often, but when he does require medical care or medicine, it's a nightmare.
We've improved his loathing of going to the doctor and getting his ears/nose/mouth examined by getting a doctor kit and playing doctor at home a lot.  We even take the doctor kit to the doctor's office and she lets him examine her first.  So that's getting a bit better (though he still hates going to the doctor and bristles at the mere mention of it).  But I honestly found it easier to give medicine to my cat (who had very sharp claws and didn't like it very much) than I do to my child.  I try reasoning with him, I try bribing him (which I normally avoid like the plague), I try offering choices (spoon or little cup? plain or mixed with juice?), I try letting him be in control (you can take it now or in 15 minutes; you can hold the spoon yourself, etc.), I try making it a game, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum.

Oh, by the way, he can detect the flavor of medicine if we try to sneak it into milk/juice/whatever.  A spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down easier in his case.  Maybe if we could manufacture medicinal jelly beans?  In any case, every time we've ever had to give him medicine his whole life, we end up holding him down and squirting it down his throat with one of those syringe things. Well, at least that worked last fall when he had croup; this time around he's figured out that he can close his throat and spit the medicine back out.  Awesome.

This is an infrequent occurrence (thank goodness!), but sometimes medicine is necessary.  I absolutely hate administering it to him under duress--but I really don't know what to do. Unfortunately, infrequent as it is, it now has become a *THING* for him-- he immediately starts girding for battle the minute he knows there might be medicine involved.  I know it must be a control issue.  I mean, I know medicine tastes yucky, but this is a child who happily eats anchovy pasta and willingly tries new foods, so I don't think he's experiencing the kind of agony a picky super-taster with oral issues would.  Maybe the croup episode (which involved an over night stay at the hospital) traumatized him (he didn't seem traumatized at the time, but you never know)?  Do you or your readers have any tips, tricks, sage advice?  Will he grow out of it?  Am I going to have to sit on him to get him to take his antibiotics in high school? Aaarrrggghhhh!

Feeling Like a Mean Mommy"

Yeah, I don't know. I can't even give medicine to my cat (who made a full recovery from his near-death experience).

This is also why I miss the Tylenol suppositories you could give to your infant children. No muss, no fuss--just up the chute and it was all copacetic.

It sounds like you've tried almost everything, so I'll just give you the couple of suggestions that popped out at me, knowing that they might not help any more than anything else you've tried:

  • Find a pharmacy that will put flavoring in the medicine. It hides the taste better than juice does, and maybe the fake bubble gum flavoring will somehow work a miracle.
  • See if you can catch the episode of "Penguins of Madagascar" in which Skipper runs and hides because he's afraid of getting a shot. (Private ends up volunteering to take the extra shot for him until the monkeys point out that that could make Private sick. I don't want to spoil the rest, since I know you probably hang on the edge of your seat as much as I do for PoM.) You can talk about how Skipper has to get the shot, so he's brave and just does it.
  • Get him some kind of doll who gets medicine when he does. (A doll with a washable face, obviously.)

The bottom line, though, is to remember that 3-year-olds are really NOT rational yet. It's very very hard for them to see that there are things they have to do, so they should get them over with as quickly as possible. That seems to click in with kids some time between 5 and 8 (in my experience), depending on the kid. So this isn't going to be something you deal with forever. At some point you'll have a kid who complains like crazy about taking medicine, but ultimately holds his nose and slams it back like Gretchen Wilson shooting whiskey.

Is anyone really good at giving kids medicine who has some good tips? Or does anyone else want to share your medicine-giving failures?