Giving medications to your children, parents or others to whom you provide care can be tricky. Being organized[DD1] can help. Medications can be given by many different routes. Knowing what not to do can help you provide better care the right way.
Touch the tip of the eye drop medicine bottle with your finger, the eyelashes, lid, or eye. Not only could you damage the eye, but germs can get into the bottle and contaminate the medicine.
Have the person look up and away from the dropper, gently pull the lower lid down while you administer the drops or ointment into the pocket of the eye lid from about ½ inch to an inch above the eye.
Dropper liquid medicine directly into the ear canal which may cause dizziness. Medicine that is cold is more likely to make you dizzy.
Warm the bottle gently by rolling it in your hands. Have the person lay on their side, gently pull the top of the ear down and back (for kids under 3) or upwards and back (for over age 3 and adults) to open the ear canal. Dropper the liquid to the edge of the ear canal so it can slowly drain into the ear canal. Gently press the front of the ear (the triangle shaped skin, called the tragus) to help pump the medicine into the ear canal.
Crush, split, break, or chew pills or tables unless instructed to do so.
Work with your pharmacist on the best way to administer pills that your patient may have difficulty in swallowing. If they can be split, consider using a pill splitter to get more even doses then you can by breaking it with your hands. Also check on whether there are other ways to give the medicine. Some can be given crushed in food (such as applesauce), or may be easier to swallow with a glass of water from a special pill cup.
Use household spoons to administer. Sizes vary considerably between one manufactures’ teaspoon from another.
Use graduated measuring tools such as droppers, spoons, or medicine cups to get the right dose.
Touch the tip of an ointment tube. This can transfer bacteria from your finger into the medicine and contaminate the entire bottle
Use a cotton swab or 2x2 gauze pad to break off the medicine from the bottle and apply it to the patients skin or wound. Some pastes, creams, ointments, and other medicines applied to the skin can be absorbed by the person giving the medicine, so wearing gloves can be a good idea.
Touch nitroglycerine with your bare hands. Some medication (especially nitroglycerine) can quickly transfer through the skin of your fingers and cause severe headaches.
Use gloves when administering nitroglycerine, or transfer it from the bottle to the cap and have the patient handle the meds. Having an emergency supply in a[DD2] special container that only the patient handles is another option.
If you have questions about how to give a medicine, your pharmacist can be the best resource to support your learning curve in proper medication administration.
By: Darcy Donahue, Manager of Clinical Integrity at Health Dialog, a subsidiary of RiteAid
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Tips for Administering Eye drops. August 2010. https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Libraries/NEW-WEBSITE-LOGOeyedropinstruction_orig_HI.pdf
- American Academy of Pediatrics. How to Give Ear Drops. February 13, 2013. https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/How-to-Give-Ear-Drops.aspx
- Medication Administration: NCLEX-RN Sept 12, 2020 https://www.registerednursing.org/nclex/medication-administration/
- AHFS DI Essentials™. Monograph Nitroglycerine (Systemic). © Copyright 2021, Selected Revisions August 12, 2019. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 4500 East-West Highway, Suite 900, Bethesda, Maryland 20814. https://www.drugs.com/monograph/nitroglycerin-systemic.html