Winter ills: How do you encourage your child to take their medication?

How do you encourage your child to take their medicine?

Winter ills and the problem of getting vulnerable children to take their medication

Winter ills

Each year I hope and pray that we will get through the cold dark months without serious illness, without a visit to hospital, with less worry than the previous year. These grey hairs are sure mounting up!

I live in hope that one Winter there won't be any mad dashes to seek medical advice, wrapped in blankets during the wee small hours of the night. One Winter without bronchiolitis, croup or laryngitis, a burst ear drum or a febrile convulsion or worse, pneumonia would be simply wonderful. As Natty has grown the illnesses have become less frequent, but at least once each year she is felled, knocked sideways by some nasty or other. It leaves me on amber alert all season and wondering if a move to slightly warmer climes might be feasible.

Now don't get me wrong, I love the staff on our local paediatric ward. They are medical angels with golden wings.

But I'd rather not be worriedly sipping tea with them at 3 am when I could be wrapping gifts by the fire, baking mince pies with the girls or watching them join in carol concerts and plays with their classmates. Oh, and getting some sleep.

The reality is of course that the lead up to Christmas is a hairy mix of memory making, precious time spent together as a family, doing a bit too much but not wanting to miss out on the fun, trying to keep everyone safe, warm and well and juggling nursing poorly children and battling the germs and the lurgies when they come to visit.

Childhood ailments

This year it all began with tummy pains and vomit. 
Lots of vomit. 
Projectile vomit. 

I guess we are talking about Norovirus or similar, and it had already spread pretty quickly around many members of the school community.

We had just about finished washing all the bedding and various sets of orangey-stained pyjamas on a boil wash, when Natty's much anticipated 8th birthday arrived 48 hours later. She was out of the don't-go-near-any-children-for-two-days quarantine zone, but was still rather pale and tired and a little hot. We interwove the paracetamol and ibuprofen and our Elsa Princess soldiered on. She attended her 'Frozen ball'.

Celebrating being 8, despite the Winter ills

Birthday girl

For two hours Natty was happy. She crafted, mixed with her friends, sang and ate cake. The adrenaline and excitement carried her through. Moments were etched on her heart forever.

But on returning home she was too tired to open her friends' gifts, the afternoon had taken all her available resources. Her breathing began to rasp. So off we went to get expert advice.

Unexpected allergy

Our GP confirmed a mild chest infection and prescribed 'banana juice' or Amoxicillin as we call it in our house.

Two days later we were looking at swollen hot lumps on her skin, more vomit, more tummy pain, more fever and now a racing heart and a breathless floppy child who was very very grumpy indeed. This was not like Natty and this was beginning to terrify me. Were we dealing with heart failure? Was this some terrible virus that wasn't responding to antibiotics? 

My mind was fretting and thinking of all the possibilities. This was something I hadn't seen in our child before. And although we quickly become medical experts when we become special needs parents, it's still difficult to deal with the unexpected and the unknown. We know our children absolutely, but there is always a spanner waiting to be thrown into the works.

The GP wasn't 100% sure, but suspected an allergy to the penicillin.
She had never shown signs of this before, but apparently it can just come on at any time in our lives.
We immediately stopped the medicine and made another appointment to see him the next day, to check her progress.
See the NHS site for penicillin allergy facts here, including symptoms of anaphylaxis*.

Once off the offending substance our littlest one began to improve. Our poor darling missed her class nativity play where she ws due to play the part of an angel. She'd been learning her lines for weeks and I couldn't believe how very emotional I felt, knowing she wouldn't stand among her peers and deliver those lines we'd rehearsed so often. 

But I had to focus on the bigger picture, helping Natty get strong and well again, but that knowledge didn't stop the tears from falling freely that evening. I know that allergies can be very serious and I felt grateful that our doctor had spotted it swiftly. Watching our our little actress speak her first line in a play symbolic of our community's inclusion would have to wait for another time.

How do you encourage your child to take their medication?

And here is the very crux of the problem. The alternative to Amoxicillin that we were given is Clarythromycin. It is utterly vile. Having licked one tiny drop from my finger I understand how poisonously bitter it is. The taste lingers on and fills your mouth with the most disgusting aftertaste.

Now on the plus side Natty has learnt some new words like 'disgusting' and 'bitter'.
But very much on the down side she has gagged on the taste so much that she has made herself sick. She is now very reluctant to take the medicine as many children are. It's not just the taste that is off-putting. Many children hate the sensation of the medicine in their mouths and refuse point blank to co-operate.

Does your child hate taking their medicine? Is it a real struggle? What are your tips?
The wonderful Downs Side Up community rallied forth with their ideas today. Thank you for all your suggestions and here are just a few:

1  Ask for an alternative antibiotic. Keflex and Erythromycin were mentioned as possibilities, though not as effective for certain conditions. 

2  Invite your child to drink before and after taking the medicine to wash it down more quickly.

3  Use a syringe instead of a spoon as the medicine will touch less of the mouth before swallowed.

4  Give your child a mouthful of honey or maple syrup before the medicine. Now is not the time to worry about sugar levels and it will coat the tongue forming a taste barrier.

5  Brush your child's teeth afterwards to help take the taste away (and get rid of that sugar you used to bribe them).

6  Use a hand puppet to administer the medicine. The character could even tell a story to engage your child's assistance. "This magic potion will help you be strong and have super powers." or "every time you take a mouthful of this medicine a fairy is born.", whatever suits your child's imagination.

7  Encourage your child to close their eyes and hold their nose while swallowing the medicine. This makes it a less sensory experience.

8  Follow the medicine with something strong flavoured but not too sweet such as a dark chocolate drop to take the taste away. Some people recommend mixing with yoghurt but there are some who are of the opinion that dairy products will change the way the antibiotics is digested. Always consult your doctor.

* Penicillin allergy can cause anaphylaxis and exposure to the allergen a second time will cause an increase in the reaction. Make sure your child's medical notes are marked appropriately, teach them to say they are allergic if possible, and mark on their One Page Prifile or medical passport. You can buy wrist bands such as this, which you child can wear to tell the world about their dangerous allergy. 

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