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Home Home Wellness News Hard to Swallow: Why Does Medicine Taste So Bad?
Hard to Swallow: Why Does Medicine Taste So Bad?
Wellness - Latest Wellness News
Jupiter, FL Dentist

April 2, 2018 -- For some people, it takes a lot more than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Lissa Smith’s toddler was one of them.

Six years ago, the 3-year-old boy from Stone Mountain, GA, was mauled by a dog, which left an infected, yellow, baseball-sized knot next to his eye. The boy’s eye was swollen shut, and the pediatrician would only know whether his sight was spared after the infection cleared.

And that meant taking antibiotics.

“He didn’t run and scream when the dog attacked him,” recalls Smith, who asked that his first name not be used to protect his privacy. “He sat still as a statue when the doctor stitched up the wound right next to his eye.”

“But when we had to give him this medicine, he’d gag on it and spit it up every time. He cried and begged us to stop.”

For 10 days, Smith and her husband had a twice-daily ritual: Strip the boy down, stand him in the bathtub, and drop the antibiotics into his mouth with an eyedropper. When he spit the offensive liquid down his chin, neck and bare chest, his dad would scoop it up with a spoon and put it back in his mouth again until it was all down. He had to have the medicine, or his infection could spread.

Eventually, it worked and the boy’s eyesight was fine.

Still, the bitter taste of some medications is an ongoing challenge in the health care of children and even some adults. If the medications taste too terrible, or if the consistency is hard to stomach, kids, and some adults, won’t take them. The risks of refusing medication are many. Smith’s son could have developed a more serious infection. But pharmacists and drugmakers face a number of challenges and limitations when tasked with making drugs more palatable for patients.

“This has always been an issue,” says Loyd Allen, PhD, a pharmacist and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Compounding. “But it’s a balancing act.” Making a medication taste better can interfere with its basic chemistry and, sometimes, raise the concerns of parents and caregivers that it’s too attractive to children.

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