It is not an uncommon practice for a parent to prefer giving their sick children, usually those below the age of 12, tablets instead of syrup. One parent explained to me that the tablets were cost effective because they can be kept for a long period of time, unlike syrups that have to be discarded within one week of use.
But let us look at a scenario where for instance, a parent goes into a pharmacy and asks for amoxicillin, which come in capsule form. The capsules usually contain 250 miligrammes of the drug. Now let us imagine the child needs about 125 miligrammes of this drug. How does one divide this capsule to get the recommended dosage? Also, because tablets may be easy to divide, does not make it okay to do so.
First, there is no guarantee that when one divides a 250miligramme tablet into two halves, each will contain exactly 125miligrammes of the drug. This may lead to an over or under-dose. It gets worse when one has to divide the tablet into quarters.
Just as well, some tablets are coated and dividing them disrupts the coating. This could expose the bitter taste of the drug or capsule.
In the end, children may become reluctant to take the medicine, or even throw up. This may also interrupt the dosing and dosage.
The coatings also provide some good properties to the medicine. One could be to improve its absorption from a specific part of the body. Again destroying the integrity of the coating will interfere with this. And yet for a drug to work in the body, it has to be absorbed as is expected.
Syrups on the other hand are suited for children. The dose is in volumes and often, it is tailored to the child’s body weight and not a standard 500miligramme tablet. Many are also flavoured, which improves intake by children.
They are also easier to swallow as opposed to tablets.
So unless absolutely necessary or unavoidable, it is best to give syrups to children, especially those below the age of 12.
The writer is a pharmacist