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Why does Medicine Taste Bad?

Some medications’ bitter taste is an ongoing issue in the health care of children and even some adults. Children and some adults will refuse to take medications if they taste bad or have difficulty swallowing. The dangers of refusing medication are numerous. Smith’s son may have contracted a more serious infection. Pharmacists and drugmakers face numerous challenges and limitations when it comes to making drugs more appealing to patients.

Why does Medicine Taste Bad (2)

Making medication taste better can interfere with its basic chemistry and, in some cases, raise parental and caregiver concerns that it is too appealing to children.

Why does Medicine have Such a Bad Taste?

Medicine, by definition, cannot be expected to taste good. The active ingredients include acids and bases that allow medications to work and are frequently bitter or overly salty. In some cases, the inactive ingredients that give the drugs their texture and ensure their shelf life are responsible for the foul taste. The drug’s foul odour may be difficult to swallow if it isn’t the taste.

Some drugs are more dangerous than others. Antibiotics, particularly penicillin-type antibiotics, have an unpleasant odour and taste. Antihistamines and decongestants are also bitter. Everything comes back to its chemical structure.

The dose can exaggerate the bitter taste. If you have a potent drug that only requires 1 or 2 milligrammes, it will not be as unpleasant as a bad-tasting drug that requires 250 milligrammes, such as an antibiotic.

According to researchers, your perception of that bitter taste protects you. Taking too much medicine can be toxic, and many potentially toxic substances taste bitter.

Furthermore, children’s taste buds are more sensitive to bitterness than adults’. That’s a good thing because it keeps them from accidentally drinking drain cleaner, but it isn’t easy to give them medicine.

What Steps can be Taken?

Because of their coating, solid pills and capsules usually do not have a bad taste. However, children as young as 6 or 8 years old frequently cannot or will not swallow pills. Because most dosages are based on the patient’s weight, liquid medications are easier to administer than pills cut in half. As a result, children are frequently subjected to the taste of the medication as it slides down their tongues and throats.

Individual pharmacists or, if there is enough demand, drugmakers add flavours to medications to make them more appealing to children and others who cannot swallow pills. But there are only so many things they can do. A bitter taste is difficult to disguise, and pharmacists cannot simply add a flavour to a bad-tasting drug and expect it to taste good.

Smith concurs. We even got the pharmacy to put some flavour in there, but it didn’t help, and it added another layer but didn’t change how awful this stuff was.

Flavour chemists, also known as “flavours,” combine five to forty chemicals to achieve the desired flavour. Flavours are similar to perfumes in that they work with various agents to achieve different notes and overtones. “It all depends on the drug itself, the concentration, and what you’re trying to do,” he says of the additives.

For example, blending in a complementary, more acceptable but bitter flavour, such as chocolate, coffee, or maple, maybe the best way to mask a bitter-tasting drug. Acidic drugs complement the flavours of acidic fruits like orange or lemon, and Flavorists may choose to overpower the drug’s taste rather than blend a flavour into it.

Wintergreen oil is effective in this regard. Chemists may also try to weaken or counteract an unpleasant taste with its inverse. For example, adding salt can reduce sourness while increasing sweetness. Adding acid to a bitter drug is frequently used to make it sourer. Children have a stronger preference for sour flavours than adults.

What are Some Tips to Easily Swallow your Medicines?

  • Plug your nose before taking the medication; odour accounts for a large portion of the taste when you swallow.
  • Desensitize your taste buds before taking your medication by sucking on a piece of ice or eating ice cream.
  • Before taking your medication, brush your teeth or gargle with mint-flavoured mouthwash (products with a strong mint flavour leave a long-lasting taste in your mouth).
  • Remove the bad taste by immediately drinking a liquid or eating a cracker.

If the medication is in liquid form:

Many products taste better when cold, though this is not always the case! Please ask your pharmacist whether putting your medication in the refrigerator will help mask its unpleasant taste.

Add the medication to a small amount of food (such as yogurt or stewed fruit), but consult your pharmacist first; we should not take some medications with dairy or grapefruit. Also, do not mix your medication with a large amount of food or liquid; this will prolong the unpleasant taste. Avoid putting medication in healthy or vital food sources with children because your child may associate the food with the medication and develop an aversion to the food.

To take your medication, use a syringe and place it at the side of your mouth, about halfway down your tongue.

If the medication is in tablet form:

Wrap it in a piece of bread and dip it in maple syrup or jam.

Crush the pill(s) and mix it into a small amount of food like yogurt or jam. (First, consult your pharmacist: some tablets are coated to protect your taste buds, and we should not take some medications with certain foods, such as dairy or grapefruit.)

Place the pill(s) on your tongue and swallow them whole with water.

If none of these measures work and the medication still makes you gag, talk to your pharmacist, who is always willing to assist.

Is it Secure?

Some medication ingredients cause some concern among parents and pediatricians, but there are generally no risks or harms unless the patient is allergic to them.

For decades, scientists have debated whether artificial colours used in some liquid medications to make the colour match the flavour can contribute to ADHD and hyperactive behaviour. However, researchers have not concluded on the subject.

Dextrose, a natural sweetener, can impair blood sugar control in diabetic children. Dextrose and sucrose have been linked to an increased risk of cavities in studies. However, certain artificial sweeteners raise cancer concerns when used instead of natural sugars.

According to research, flavorists use such small amounts of artificial flavours that flavouring ingredients should not pose a risk to children unless they are allergic.

Parents who have questions about the ingredients should consult their doctor or pharmacist. Sweeteners and dyes are not permitted in compounding pharmacies.

While Smith didn’t have to worry about her son’s medication tasting too good, some parents are concerned that the banana or bubble gum flavours will entice their children to return to the medicine cabinet when no one is looking. Pharmacists are chastised when it tastes too much like candy, but parents must bear some responsibility for keeping medications out of the reach of children.

5 Tips to Assist Parents in Giving Medicine to Children

Correct dosage and flavouring are just a few ways to make the medicine more appealing.

Giving medications to infants and toddlers is difficult, from measuring the correct dose to watching your child spit everything back at you. Brooke Shuster, MD, Associate Medical Director of Inova’s Pediatric Hospitalist Group, offers doctor-approved coping strategies.

Flavour it up.

Call your pharmacist before picking up your child’s prescription and ask if we can safely add a flavour to the medicine. If you forget, ask if mixing the medication with something tasty will affect its efficacy. Some mixable ingredients include yogurt, apple sauce, juice, sugar water, and chocolate syrup.

Before mixing medication with other food or juice, measure the dosage carefully.

If your child cannot finish the entire serving of soft food or liquid, do not mix the medication into it.

Take your time measuring.

The dosage for infants and toddlers is carefully prescribed based on weight; even a little too much or too little can be dangerous. Use a pediatric measuring device, such as a dropper or an oral syringe. A proper measuring tool is usually included with a liquid prescription, but if not, most pharmacies have a selection.

If your child spits out the medication, contact your pediatrician. Dosage measurement is critical for children; only the doctor can determine whether a second try is safe.

We should not use kitchen spoons.

this method does not accurately measure the dose. If the child squirms, the entire dose may fall to the floor.

Positioning is important. If flavouring isn’t an option and the medication tastes bad, try pointing the pediatric measuring device toward the inside cheek of the child rather than directly on the tongue. This may give you just enough time to take a good swallow before your taste buds kick in.

Squirt small amounts of medicine into your baby’s mouth to avoid overfilling it, which can exacerbate a natural reaction to spit out an unpleasant medication.

If this or any other trick fails and your baby spits out the medication, do not automatically administer a second dose. Always consult with your pediatrician first. Some were likely swallowed, which could make a second dose dangerous.

Follow the directions.

If there is any leftover medication and you are certain your baby has finished the entire course, properly dispose of the container.

Maintain strict adherence to the medication regimen prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, contact your baby’s doctor for assistance.

Do not give any leftover medication to another child, even if the symptoms are identical. If there is any left over after the full course, check in with the prescribing doctor.

Understand pediatric dosing.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are dosed according to weight rather than age.

Consult your baby’s doctor every few months about proper OTC medication dosages. The weight of a baby fluctuates rapidly.

Unless your baby’s doctor recommends it, do not use over-the-counter cough and cold medications. To relieve at least some cold symptoms, stick with ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Coughing is the body’s natural way of clearing out the lungs, and suffocating the cough can prolong your baby’s head cold.

Why does Medicine Cause me to Vomit?

Liquid medications, like capsules and tablets, also pass through your digestive tract. If you vomit soon after drinking a liquid medication, your body may not have had time to absorb all of it. Your body absorbs liquid medications at varying rates depending on various factors.

Why does Cough Syrup have Such a Bad Taste?

Cough syrups, particularly those containing codeine, are notorious for their unpleasant taste. An antitussive compound containing codeine sulphate and chlorpheniramine maleate was developed in a coated drug-resin complex, preventing active ingredients from being released until they reach the stomach and small intestine.

Why does Amoxicillin have Such a Bad Taste?

Antibiotics such as amoxicillin can cause taste changes. When taking amoxicillin, some people report that their food tastes metallic. One possible explanation is that the medication interferes with the body’s ability to absorb the mineral zinc. A zinc deficiency can result in a metallic or bad taste in the mouth.

What can I do to Get Rid of the Metallic Taste in my Mouth Caused by Sleeping Pills?

Patients suffering from drug-induced dysgeusia can rinse and gargle with salt and baking soda or brush their teeth with baking soda. Patients should rinse with a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of warm water (but not swallow).


There’s no getting around it: some medications taste so bad they make you gag! Although you can sometimes request a different medication (ask your doctor) or formulation (ask your pharmacist), you must generally take your medication as prescribed.