Keep all medicines out of the reach of children

Taking Medicines

As part of your child’s treatment, he/she may need to take medicines at home. There are a variety of ways medicine can be taken. Pills are taken by mouth (orally). Injections are taken either in the muscle (intramuscularly), much like immunizations, or under the skin (subcutaneously). Some medicines are taken in a vein (intravenously). This is usually done through your child’s IV catheter. 

Before your child takes any medicine, there are a few important points to know:

  • The name of the medicine
  • What the medicine is used to treat
  • Dosage—how much should be taken
  • How to take it
  • When to take it
  • How long to take it
  • How it should be stored
  • Side effects associated with this medicine

Hiding the Taste of Medicines

Flavoring tips:

  • Fruit hides sour-flavored medicines
  • Salt, sweet, and sour hides bitter-flavored medicines
  • Salt reduces sour-flavored medicines
  • Salt increases sweet-flavored medicines
  • Cocoa syrup (such as Hershey’s) can be the best way to disguise bitter tastes (such as steroids)

Non-Prescription (Over-the-Counter) Medicine

Talk with a member of your child’s care team before giving your child any non-prescription (over-the-counter) medicine. There are many different types of medicines that are used to treat common ailments such as colds, upset stomach, or fever. Herbal remedies, supplements, and vitamins are also readily available without a prescription.

Safety Alert!

If your child is receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy and their platelet count is low, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen should not be given.
These drugs keep platelets from working properly. These medications are often combined with other medication such as medications for colds or sore throats. 

Medications to Avoid (Contain Aspirin)
Alka Seltzer®
Alka Seltzer Cold®
Synalgos DC®
Bayer Children’s Cold®

Medications to Avoid (Contain Ibuprofen or Naproxen)

Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®) can be used in place of aspirin and ibuprofen for fever or minor aches and pains. Be sure to read the labels and buy the appropriate dose (children or adult) for your child or teen.

Prescription Medicines

Your child may need to take prescription medications. Check with your insurance company if you have questions about where to go for prescription medications. Primary Children's outpatient pharmacy has most medicines, including chemotherapy. If your insurance provider does not allow you to fill prescriptions at Primary Children's, your child’s medicine may have to be special-ordered. Most pharmacies are able to get any medicine within 48 hours. Most insurance providers will allow you to receive a few doses from a non-approved pharmacy while you are waiting for the medicine to arrive.

If your child needs to stay on a medication for a long time, healthcare providers will often give many refills on prescriptions. The number of refills is written on the prescription label.  If you run out of medicine and have no refills, call the clinic. The nurse will make sure the medicine and dosage are correct and call the prescription in to the pharmacy of your choice. If you need to leave a message to get a refill, be sure to leave the following information:

  • The pharmacy phone number where your medicines are filled
  • Whether your child prefers tablets or liquid
  • A telephone number where you can be reached

Oral Medications

Most of the medicines given at home will be oral medicines. If your child throws up an oral medicine less than 20 minutes after taking it, have them take it again. If he/she throws up again, contact the clinic before repeating it again. Call the clinic for advice if your child refuses to take a medicine.

Swallowing Pills:

Getting your child to take a pill may take some imagination and patience on your part. Some chewable tablets have a bitter taste so it may be worth your effort to try to help your child learn how to swallow pills. The following steps may help:

  1. Take a drink of water or juice to moisten the mouth. 
  2. Place the pill on the back of the tongue.
  3. Take another large drink to wash the pill down.

Other Tips

  • Don’t use medicine when learning to swallow pills. Try Skittles®, Tic Tacs®, small M&Ms®, or cooked corn kernels that are smooth and fun to swallow.
  • Have your other children participate.
  • Don’t use carbonated beverages. A large swallow is difficult to get down.
  • Some children do better swallowing tablets that are buried in a teaspoon of yogurt or peanut butter.
  • Talk with a child life specialist for other ideas.

Caution : Do not place medication in a bottle of formula. The infant may not take the whole bottle and thus not take all of the medication. The medicine can also bind with the formula or other liquids and make it less effective.

Rectal Medications

Safety Alert!

Rectal medications or suppositories should never be given to children who are being treated for cancer. Suppositories may cause your child to bleed or get an infection when blood counts are low.

Herbal and Holistic Treatments

There is an Integrative Medicine Doctor at Primary Children's Hospital that can discuss the use of herbal and holistic treatments during chemotherapy with you if you are interested. Some herbal and holistic treatments can be used along with cancer treatments. Please share with your doctor the name of the medicine, or type of treatment, your child is receiving. Some treatments are not safe to give in conjunction with therapy or may interfere with the cancer treatments your child will receive. There are a few treatments our doctors advise against using:

  • Any treatment that requires an enema, injection, or intravenous medicine (there is a risk of bleeding or infection if these treatments are used).
  • Any treatment that requires leaving the country (your child may be exposed to serious infection or receive products that have not been safely tested).
  • Any treatment that uses extremely high doses of vitamin A, D, E, K, or folic acid (B6) (some vitamins, when given in high doses, interfere with the cancer treatments your child will be receiving).

Subcutaneous Injections (Shots)

Many children with cancer receive Subcutaneous (“Sub Q”) injections of a medication called GCSF, see Absolute Neutrophil section under blood counts for more information about this medication.

If your child needs to have this medication your nurse will teach you how to give it. For more information on how to give an injection please see the Let's Talk About below:  

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