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Taking Liquid Medicine by Mouth

Medicines work best when given the right way. Always read the label carefully. Below is a sample prescription label and a list of things to check before giving medicine to your child:



Right concentration: Each drug company and pharmacy have their own way of mixing medicine. They put a certain amount of medicine into a certain amount of liquid. This is called the concentration of the medicine. Some medicines come in more than one concentration. 

The concentration of a medicine is not always the same as the dose of a medicine. 

  • In the example above, 100 mg/5 mL is the concentration. This is how the medicine was mixed.

  • In the example above, 2.5 ml (50 mg) is the child’s dose. This is the amount to give the child.

Right amount/dose: If you are giving your child a liquid medicine that you bought “over the counter,” such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), use the measuring device that came with the medicine. If you are picking up a prescription for a liquid medicine, ask the pharmacist for the correct size oral syringe to give the medicine. Each time you fill/refill a prescription, ask the pharmacist to show you exactly how much medicine to give, using the appropriate oral syringe/medicine cup. Never use a kitchen spoon to measure medicine.

Caution! Some syringes have markings for both mL and teaspoon (tsp). 

Always use the mL markings to measure medicine.

Right time: The prescription label will tell you how often to give the medicine. Write down the times each day so that you remember when to give each dose.

Right child: Make sure that it is your child’s name on the prescription label.

Right number of days: The prescription label may say to give the medicine for a certain number of days. Mark the days on a calendar.

Right place: Store the medicine as directed on the label. 

Call your healthcare provider if you think your child needs a new prescription. Throw away any leftover prescription medicine.

Instructions to help your child take medicine:

  • Use a medicine syringe or dropper for liquid; it will be easier to give the medicine. You can also consider a medicine cup for an older child.

  • When giving the medicine say, in a calm voice, "It's time for your medicine."

  • When using a dropper or syringe, cradle your child on your lap, head tilted back. Squirt small amounts of medicine into the mouth, beside the child’s tongue. Do not squirt the medicine forcefully into the back of the throat or you will cause choking.

Tips for medicine that tastes bad:

Infants: After giving the medicine, give formula or water. Never mix in a bottle. 

Children older than 1 year:

  • Have your child suck something cold like an ice pop to numb the mouth before you give the medicine.

  • Some (but not all) medicine can be mixed with food; check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to see if this is possible.

  • Have a glass of your child's favorite cold drink ready to drink right after the medicine.

  • Praise and hug your child for cooperating.

If your child refuses:

  • You may need another adult to hold him while you give the medicine.

  • Be honest but sympathetic, "I'm sorry it tastes bad."

  • Be firm and give a reason, like: "You have to take it or you won't get well."

  • If your child is older than two, give your child a break, and in five minutes, attempt to give the medicine again.

  • Do not hurt self-esteem by saying things like: "You're acting like a baby."

  • Do not punish with spanking or yelling.

  • Do not call the medicine candy.

Call Your CHOP healthcare team if: 

  • Your child vomits the medicine more than once

  • You are unable to get your child to take a needed medicine

  • You think your child is having an allergic reaction to the medicine such as developing a rash

If your child has trouble breathing or has swelling of the face, this is an emergency. Call 911.


Reviewed February 2024 by Megan Jennings, MSN, RN, CPN, CPHQ, LSSGB

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