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How to Give Medicines Through a Feeding Tube

Some patients will get medicines through a feeding tube. Before giving any medicines through a feeding tube, make sure you know the type of tube your child has. Follow the directions of your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse for how to give the medicine.

Find more information about types of feeding tubes.

Supplies needed

  • Medicine or medicines
  • Pill crusher if the medicine is in tablet or pill form
  • Medicine cup, one for each medicine if needed
  • Water (use sterile water if instructed)
  • Syringe with the correct tip (at least a 20 ml size)
  • Button extension set (if needed)

Getting started

  • Gather your supplies.
  • Clean your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Position your child upright. Be sure that you can reach the tube easily.

Preparing the medicine

  • Use the liquid form of each medicine when possible.
  • If the medicine is a tablet, crush it to a fine powder using a pill crusher. Know how many tablets make up your dose of medicine.
  • If the medicine is a capsule, open the correct number of capsules.
  • Pour the powder from the pills or capsules into a small amount of water and let it dissolve.
  • Measure each medicine into a separate cup or syringe.
Putting medicine into cup.
Putting medicine into cup with syringe.

Dissolve medicine from a tablet or capsule in water as instructed by your care team. Give each medicine by itself.

Safety Reminders

  • Give each medicine by itself. Do not mix any medicine with formula or with another medicine.
  • Do not open a capsule and dissolve medicine until you check with your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse.
  • Do not crush coated pills or use any extended-release or long-acting medicines with a feeding tube.
  • Some medicines are too thick to give through a feeding tube safely. If the medicine looks thick, add some water until it is a thin, watery liquid.
  • If your child is getting feedings, stop the feedings. If a medicine must be taken on an empty stomach, stop the feeding at least 30 minutes before giving the medicine. Wait 30 minutes after giving the medicine to start feedings again.
  • Flush the feeding tube before and after giving the medicine.
  • Always close or clamp the tube before removing the cap or disconnecting a syringe.
  • If your child has a button-type tube, prime it with water and attach the extension tubing.

Giving the medicine

  • Clamp the tube.
  • Attach the flushing syringe to the end of the feeding tube or the extension tubing. If your child has a G-tube, most medicines should be given in the gastric port (G-port). This is the port that goes to your child’s stomach. Ask your care team if you have questions about which port the medicine should go into.
  • Unclamp the tube.
  • Flush the tube with water. To flush by gravity, hold the syringe above your child’s stomach to allow it to flow into the tube. Do not use the plunger of the syringe to force the water into the tube unless otherwise instructed.
  • Draw up medicine into a clean syringe.
  • Give the medicine using the attached syringe. If using a separate syringe, clamp the tube and attach the syringe with the medicine. Unclamp and give the medicine as instructed.
  • If you are giving more than 1 medicine, give each medicine by itself.
  • Flush the feeding tube with a small amount of water after each medicine.
  • After you give all the medicine, flush the tube with the recommended amount of water.
  • Clamp the tube or start the feedings again if your child is getting continuous feedings. If your child has a button, disconnect the extension tubing.

If medicine will not go down by gravity, make sure your child is calm. If your child is crying, medicines might not go in. If your child is calm and the medicine will not go in, use the plunger of the syringe to gently push the medicine. If it will not go in with gentle pressure, call your health care provider.

Key Points

  • Some patients may need to get medicines through a feeding tube.
  • There are different types of feeding tubes. Be sure you know what type of tube your child has before giving anything into it.
  • Use the liquid form of a medicine when possible. You may need to add water to thin the liquid.
  • If a medicine is a tablet, crush to make a fine powder and dissolve in water.
  • If a medicine is a capsule, open the capsule and dissolve in water.
  • Do not give medicines that are coated, extended-release, or long-acting through a feeding tube.
  • Give each medicine separately and flush the tube with water after each dose.
  • If you have questions about how to give medicines through your child’s feeding tube, please talk to your doctor, advanced practice provider, nurse, or pharmacist.

Reviewed: June 2022