Pill-taking lessons for kids

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Jackson's story: One lesson, a lifetime of medicine

Due to an immune deficiency called chronic granulomutous disease, 5-year-old Jackson was no stranger to taking medicine. Every time he developed an infection, doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital would treat him with liquid antibiotics. As he got older, Jackson began to resist his liquid medicine because of its taste and texture, but wasn't able to swallow his medicines in pill form yet. But Nationwide Children's had a solution.

"The pill-swallowing process can be incredibly stressful for both children and parents. When a child is taught how to take pills through a course that focuses on simple instructions with positive praise and encouragement, you can see the child and family become more comfortable and confident," said Arleen Tripp, a ChildLife specialist who helps kids like Jackson become comfortable swallowing pills.

Arleen worked with Jackson and his mom, Carolyn, and in just one afternoon, Jackson was a pro. "The pill-teaching course at Nationwide Children's was such a help to Jackson and our entire family," said Carolyn. "We used to dread 'medicine time,' but now it comes and goes with no problem. Jackson will need to take medicine for the rest of his life and now he can."

Today, Jackson is a happy and healthy 7-year-old and his family is more at ease knowing he's able to comfortably and confidently take the life-saving pills.

PEDIATRIC ADVANCEMENTS: Pill-swallowing course eliminates stress for kids

For many kids, the skill of pill-swallowing can be a hard lesson to learn. At Nationwide Children's Hospital, ChildLife specialists and psychologists help kids learn how to take necessary pills like pain relievers, prescribed antibiotics and vitamins.

Kids are often familiar with taking medicines but only in liquid form. Taking medicine in a pill can be scary. Sometimes kids are afraid that the pill will get stuck in their throat and cause them to choke or vomit. Other times, kids are just afraid of disappointing their parents.

Lessons start with a sprinkle, then move up in size to a small breath mint, a coated chocolate candy, and then a larger placebo pill created by Nationwide Children's pharmacy. The "pills" continue to get larger until the patient can take a pill of any size. Experts say the key is patience on the parts of both the patient and instructor.

Although medication is necessary for some children, parents are not encouraged to take their medications in front of children who are not in need of prescription drugs. It's important to talk to kids about when and why medicine is sometimes necessary.


Tips to help kids swallow pills

  • Allow your child to make reasonable choices. For example, allow him or her to choose with which cup they want to take their pills.
  • Create a schedule so your child knows when it is time for medicine.
  • Be patient. Remind your child that learning to take medicines takes time and practice.
  • Be a role model. If you take medicine, take your pills with your child while she takes hers.
  • Never trick your child into taking medicine.