• How to take liquid medicines

How to take liquid medicines as an adult and children

When taking a liquid medicine, as with any other medicine, it is important to follow the directions of your doctor. If you are unsure how much medicine you should take or how often to take it, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist.


Adults will usually have to take larger doses of liquid medicines, which may involve measuring out more than one 5mL spoonful. You should take your time to make sure you measure the dose carefully, using the medicine spoon that came with the medicine or one that has been given to you by your pharmacist. These spoons are designed to accurately measure a 5mL dose of the medicine. Some medicines will come with a measuring cup rather than spoon. If you find it difficult using a spoon or measuring cup, then you may find an oral medicines syringe easier to use. If you think this would be helpful for you, you should speak to your pharmacist, who will be able to supply one.

  • Before measuring the dose you should shake the bottle to ensure that all of the drug particles are evenly dispersed throughout the bottle.
  • Measure your dose carefully using a medicines spoon, measuring cup or medicines syringe.
  • If using a spoon, measure out a level spoonful and swallow the medicine from the spoon. Medicines spoons are designed to give a 5mL dose so if you need more than this, you should repeat the process.
  • If using a medicines measuring cup, make sure you are familiar with the graduated markings on the cup before measuring your medicine. When you are confident of which line you need to measure to, carefully pour the liquid into the cup so that the liquid reaches the mark on the cup. Once measured, swallow the liquid from the cup.
  • Once you have taken the dose, you should wash your medicines spoon or cup and dry it ready for use next time.


It can be quite difficult to get children to swallow medicines from a spoon, especially young children. Children and babies are also often prescribed small doses of medicines, which are impractical to measure using a normal medicines spoon. The easiest way to administer medicines to a child is using an oral medicines syringe. This is a special measuring device used to accurately measure small doses of liquid medicine. You should be given either a normal medicines spoon or an oral syringe with your child’s medicine when you collect it from the pharmacy. If you would like an oral syringe and have not been given one you should ask your pharmacist.

When using an oral syringe to administer a liquid medicine to a child:

  • Remember to shake the bottle first to ensure the drug particles are evenly dispersed in the bottle
  • Firstly pull the syringe plunger back to the required measure point, drawing air into the syringe
  • Place the bung (which comes with oral syringes) into the top of the bottle and ensure that it is a tight fit
  • Now push the syringe into the top of the bung, again ensuring a tight fit
  • Push the air from the syringe into the bottle
  • Turn the bottle upside down so that the liquid is at the bung end and pull out the required amount of medicine with the syringe. NB: If you do not push the air into the bottle first then you will find it hard to pull the liquid out
  • Take the syringe out of the medicines bottle, then gently place the tip of the syringe in the child’s mouth, just inside their cheek
  • Gently push the plunger of the syringe down to dispense the medicine into the child’s mouth. Allow them to swallow the medicine. Avoid pushing the plunger down forcefully or placing the medicine at the back of the child’s throat. This may cause them to choke.
  • Take the syringe out of the child’s mouth
If the child is using a measuring spoon, follow the instructions given above for adults.