How to give your child liquid medicines

If you have any questions about your child’s liquid medicine, please ask your family doctor (GP) or local community pharmacist.

Using an oral syringe

  • Wash your hands.
  • Make sure your child is sitting upright.
  • Shake the medicine bottle unless stated otherwise on the label.
  • Remove the top from the bottle and insert the bottle adapter if necessary.
  • Insert the tip of the oral syringe into the bottle adapter.
  • Turn the bottle upside down and pull the plunger until the medicine reaches the volume required.
  • Gently remove the tip of the oral syringe from the bottle adapter.
  • Put the top back on the bottle.
  • Put the tip of the oral syringe inside your child’s mouth.
  • Gently push the plunger to squirt small amounts of medicine into the side of your child’s mouth.
  • Allow your child to swallow before continuing to push the plunger.
  • Give your child a drink to wash down the medicine.
  • When you have given the whole dose, take the syringe apart and wash the sections in warm, soapy water unless directed otherwise on the label..


  • Do not squirt all of the medicine into your child’s mouth in one go – he or she may choke.
  • Do not aim the syringe at the centre of your child’s mouth – aim at the area between the gums and the inside of his or her cheek.
  • Check the dose before giving to your child. Some syringes are marked in millilitres (ml) and some in milligrams (mg).
  • Only use warm, soapy water to wash the syringe as some cleaning fluids remove the dose markings.

Using a medicine cup or spoon

  • Wash your hands.

  • Shake the medicine bottle before opening.

  • Carefully pour the medicine in the medicine cup or medicine spoon according to the dose on the label.

  • Give the dose to your child.

  • Give them a drink to wash down the medicine.

  • Put the top back on the bottle.

  • When you have given the whole dose, wash the spoon or cup in warm, soapy water.


  • Always use the medicine cup or spoon enclosed with the bottle. Do not use a household teaspoon as this will not give an accurate dose.

Looking after the liquid medicine

  • Always check the expiry date of the medicine before giving it to your child.
  • Ask your pharmacist about storing the medicine. Some needs to be kept in the fridge but others only need to be kept out of direct sunlight.
  • Read the instructions and only use the liquid medicine as instructed.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
  • Always check that you are giving the correct dose of medicine as some medicines are available in different strengths.
  • If the medicine passes its expiry date or your child stops using it, please return it to your pharmacist. Do not flush it down the toilet or throw it away.
Compiled by: 
the Pharmacy department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date: 
August 2017


Please read this information sheet from GOSH alongside the patient information leaflet (PIL) provided by the manufacturer. If you do not have a copy of the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet please talk to your pharmacist. A few products do not have a marketing authorisation (licence) as a medicine and therefore there is no PIL.

For children in particular, there may be conflicts of information between the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet (PIL) and guidance provided by GOSH and other healthcare providers. For example, some manufacturers may recommend, in the patient information leaflet, that a medicine is not given to children aged under 12 years. In most cases, this is because the manufacturer will recruit adults to clinical trials in the first instance and therefore the initial marketing authorisation (licence) only covers adults and older children.  

For new medicines, the manufacturer then has to recruit children and newborns into trials (unless the medicine is not going to be used in children and newborns) and subsequently amend the PIL with the approved information. Older medicines may have been used effectively for many years in children without problems but the manufacturer has not been required to collect data and amend the licence. This does not mean that it is unsafe for children and young people to be prescribed such a medicine ‘off-licence/off-label’. However, if you are concerned about any conflicts of information, please discuss with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.