July 31st, 2011

Giving Supplements

Ah, the medications and supplements. The only thing less fun than paying for them is getting your kid to take them, right? I’ve tried out several administration techniques over the years, with varying degrees of success. Most parents go in an order something like this:

1.) Search high and low for a good-tasting liquid version — except of course the bottles lie, they never actually taste good.

2.) Open the capsules (or crush the pills,) and mix them in a large spoonful of applesauce, or jelly, or cupcake frosting, whatever the hell it takes to hide the taste.

3.) Realize that there are some supplements that you just can’t make palatable, no matter what you do… so you dump everything together in a little cup with some liquid, suck them up with an oral syringe, and just make the kid take them. (I know there are a couple of you out there who are thinking that’s just so mean… but if your kid were diabetic, you’d give him his insulin injections everyday, wouldn’t you? When a medicine is necessary to get better, there’s no arguing about it, in my book.)

To be sure, one of the best investments we ever made was an ABA skills clinic that taught my son to swallow pills on his own, just after his 4th birthday. But before that happened, I did develop a pretty good syringe technique that I still use with his little sister, and I thought I would share.

[As always, please remember that nothing on this site is to be construed as medical advice. Consult with your ARI practitioner for what medicines may be appropriate for your child’s condition.]


First thing, of course, is to get yourself some good oral syringes. I bought a huge bag of these a long time ago, and when the rubber seal starts to get dodgy after a couple months I just toss it and use another. You can get them online in relatively small quantities, too.


The important thing about this kind is it comes with a little blue cap, which is critical to this technique. Put the cap on the tip, and put a tiny trickle of water into the open end of the syringe. Try to keep it under 2 milliliters.


Then, stand your syringe on its capped end, and open however many capsules you need to administer. See, when you try to mix it in a cup first and then suck it into the syringe, you usually end up with med sludge stuck on the bottom of the cup. So you have to add more liquid, suck again, add more liquid… and before long you’ve got 5 syringes’ worth of nasty stuff instead of just one.


When all your powders are in, add another tiny trickle of water on top, again shooting for only a milliliter. The water layer at the bottom will ensure that the powder gets fully mixed and doesn’t just hide in the tip. Do not fill the syringe all the way, you need the air space for turbulence.


Place your finger firmly over the open end, and shake vigorously.


Now, insert the plunger just enough to get it to stick in place. This is not something you should be doing with one hand, but I had a camera to hold onto.


Turn it upright, remove the cap, and very gently push the excess air out of the tip of the syringe. Now you’re ready to make your kid miserable for a second — but it’ll be considerably less miserable, and less mess, than it would be if you had to drag it out into a half-dozen syringes of increasingly dilute med sludge. Then chase it with another syringe full of fruit juice: not only will it wash the taste away, which is more effective than trying to hide it in the first place, but it will also teach them that not everything that comes out of a syringe is horrid.


On a tangential note, these things are fantastic for giving measured doses of medicines that come in topical creams. The minimum order of 25 ain’t so great, but your local compounding pharmacy might order them and sell you a couple individually, or maybe you and some friends could go in on a bag together.


Happy Supplementing!


1 comment to Giving Supplements

  • mrschaits

    We have such a huge gag factor here. I have found that grape juice seems to be a key in getting it down, though it doesn’t hide the flavor. A small spoon of yogurt with an opened capsule works well too. These syringes are interesting . . . might have to make a call to my compounding pharmacy–love them.

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