How to Make Medication Taste Better

Written by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted October 07, 2020

Let's face it. Most medications taste disgusting. A major barrier for medication adherence in children (and even adults) is the nasty taste and smell that flood your senses before you take it down the hatch. Pharmacists often help with this matter by coating common medications with flavors such as watermelon or strawberry to make taking your meds easier and even, dare I say, fun. Patients have asked me how it’s possible for their medication to suddenly taste better while still maintaining its therapeutic effect. Let’s walk through the different ways you can avoid the dreadful taste of your medicine.

  • Mix it up!

Most doses of antibiotics for kids can be mixed with applesauce, yogurt, or even a small amount of fruit juice.

Pharmacist TIP: Just use a little bit of food/drink mix! The entire portion you mix must be consumed to ensure you get the full dose. The last thing you need is a feisty toddler resisting to finish all their applesauce.

  • Trick your brain.

Try giving your child a cold delight like a popsicle or ice cream as this will numb the taste buds, hindering the perception of taste before the medication dose is given. Another trick is to have the child take a spoon of something sweet like maple syrup, strawberry syrup, or jam to coat the tongue before giving the medication, then have the child wash it down with a preferred drink such as apple juice.

  • Change it up!

Try chilling your medication before giving it to your child: it often tastes better this way. Pharmacist TIP: If chilling the medication doesn't quite do it, try using an oral syringe and squeezing the medication slowly into the mouth off the side of the cheek. This method will prevent the medication from touching the tongue, lowering the chances of a disgusting taste.

Be sure to always check with your pharmacist if certain food or drinks should be avoided when mixing in medications.

Related: Why can't I eat grapefruit while taking certain drugs?

How do you get rid of the aftertaste of medication?

Why can’t everything have the aftertaste of a hot slice of Brooklyn pizza? Here are some tips:

  • Brush your teeth

Brushing your teeth after your medication dose can really help get rid of the aftertaste, especially from leftover drug residue on teeth or a chalky taste on the tongue.

Pharmacist TIP: Get yourself a tongue cleaner and wipe off drug residue in between doses to keep your tongue tasting clean and normal.

  • Rinse your mouth

Rinsing your mouth with a quick mixture of water and one tablespoon salt can help get rid of bad aftertaste, be sure to spit and not swallow the solution.

  • Pop some sugar-free gum or mints

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What medicine can affect your taste buds?

Some medications can cause a metallic taste or impair your taste in some other way. Here are some examples:

  • Blood pressure medication like captopril

  • Antibiotics like metronidazole and clarithromycin

  • Chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin and methotrexate

  • Medication used for glaucoma like Methazolamide

  • Medication used for osteoporosis like Alendronate

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Why does liquid medicine taste so bad?

There is a gap in our understanding of why drugs taste so horrible, although it may actually be linked to science. The breakdown is that drugs interfere with natural processes that occur in our body’s cells, which means many drugs can be considered toxic in large quantities. The taste of bitterness has been thought to have evolved for us to prevent the ingestion of toxic substances.

Liquid medicine is often a complex formulation consisting of bulk materials, sweeteners, flavorings, buffers, coloring agents, and preservatives. Masking the bitter taste in liquid medications is hard, even when strong sweeteners are used with acids and sugars, the bitterness is still not completely eliminated.

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How do you take a nasty pill without tasting it?

Here's the best method to take a pill with minimal taste and chalky residue in your mouth:

  • First, take a drink of water or juice to get your mouth wet

  • Place the pill far back on your tongue

  • Take a big drink of water immediately after placing the pill, swish the water in your mouth a little to move the pill and prevent it from sticking on your tongue

  • Be sure to swallow the pill and liquid in one big gulp, keep drinking more water if you feel like the pill is stuck

Here is an alternative method if you can’t seem to get along with just water or juice:

  • Take one spoonful of ice cream or applesauce

  • Place the pill in the chosen food

  • Swallow the spoonful in one go

If you still can’t find a solution to get your child or yourself to take medication, don't be afraid to speak to your local pharmacist for more tips to help you find the best solution.

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