What to Do When Your Child Needs Daily Medicine

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Helping your child keep up with the medication needs of a condition like asthma or diabetes can stress the whole family.

These strategies from Morgan King, PharmD, BCPPS, Pediatric Ambulatory Care Pharmacist at the UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children, can help everyone cope:

  • Learn about the medications. Make sure you and your child understand why the drugs are necessary, what their side effects might be and what to do if a dose is missed. It’s also wise to learn how to deal with changes in routine (such as trips).
  • Enlist your child’s help. Use positive reinforcement, such as praise, stickers and rewards charts. Older children appreciate incentives, too. For example, the desire to drive can motivate teens with epilepsy to regularly take their medication. 
  • Talk with your child. Emphasize that despite its side effects, medication can help your child lead a more normal life. Listen when your child talks about problems he or she faces. Your child may feel embarrassed or different from peers. Seek solutions together. Your child’s doctor may have suggestions, too. Counseling or peer support groups may offer help.
  • Compromise when you can.If taking medications at school is embarrassing, your child may be able to take them at home instead. Work with his or her doctor to find safe alternatives.
  • Share information. Explain your child’s medical needs to key people at his or her school. School personnel should know how to respond to a seizure or asthma attack. “Make sure you understand your school’s policies on medications,” says King. “If your child uses rescue medication, the school staff should have access to it and know how to administer it. Your child should not carry his or her own medication at school unless your pediatrician and school agree it’s needed for quick access to emergency medication.”
  • Empower your child. Use role-playing to prepare your child for the questions he or she may face at school. Ask your child, “If your friends wonder why you need to take medication, what will you say?” Discuss and practice appropriate answers.
  • Be prepared for adolescence. A teen’s desire for independence can conflict with his or her need to depend on parents and doctors. Avoid making medications a battlefield. Instead, gradually transfer to your growing child the responsibility for managing his or her medications while supporting healthy behaviors.
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