Kids Corner: The ABCs of Administering Pediatric Medications

As every pediatric nurse knows, administering oral medications to young children can be a laborious task. To assist you in delivering medications safely and efficiently, follow this month’s tips and treasure the extra time you will save by efficient medication administration.

Always evaluate your patient’s ability to swallow oral drugs before. The best way to do this is to casually observe oral intake at mealtimes.

When administering liquid medications, try to administer the medication into a corner pocket of the patient’s cheek to prevent the liquid from running out. A needless syringe is a handy tool to accomplish this. If the child is a little older, use a calibrated medication cup to ensure an accurate dose. Rinse the device with water before pouring the drug into it. This will prevent the drug from sticking to the sides and will deliver as more accurate dose.

If the medication is only available in tablet form, consult the pharmacist to see if it can be crushed and mixed with a compatible liquid, like apple juice. If the tablet cannot be crushed, place the pill as far back on the tongue as possible, and encourage the child to take a sip of water, hold it in his mouth and look up at the ceiling. Once his head is tilted back, instruct the child to swallow.

Remember that the choice of liquid used to aid swallowing is an important consideration. Water is always the preferred choice. Fruit juices and milk products may interfere with drug absorption. Use a straw when administering liquid drugs with an unpleasant taste, as the straw will limit the amount of contact the drug will make with the taste buds on the tongue. Acidic drugs and iron preparations should also be administered using a straw to avoid staining or damaging the child’s teeth.

Never refer to the drug as candy, even if it has a pleasant or sweet taste.

Learn more about medication administration in The Fundamentals of Nursing Made Incredibly Easy by Lippincott, Williams & Wikins (2007).