The Mighty Logo

9 Tips for Taking Terrible-Tasting Medicine

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

If there’s one thing that’s a nearly-inevitable part of life with a chronic illness, disability, or mental health condition, it’s medication. From over-the-counter remedies to supplements to prescription pills and liquids, many of us practically have a pharmacy in our medicine cabinet. And we’ve also discovered that many of these medications taste bad. From horse pills that leave you retching to gag-inducing chalky liquids, getting the meds you need into your body can be incredibly unpleasant. These struggles can even make it nearly impossible for kids, people with sensory sensitivities, and people with eating disorders or food-related trauma to take the medications they need. So we asked our Mighty community: What are your tips for taking terrible-tasting medicine?

We got lots of great ideas, including some to help you gulp down that gross liquid, and others to swallow that literally bitter pill. Here are nine tips to help you take medication that tastes awful.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Try these techniques to avoid tasting the medication:

“Holding your breath can help dull the taste since smell has a surprising amount of involvement in tasting things. Kinda like how you can taste rain in the air sometimes.” — @katherine98

“I pinch my nose and drink a bit of water. I keep my nose pinched and put strong peppermint gum in my mouth and chew for a bit until I know the flavor of the med is gone, then let go of my nose. Works pretty well!” — @debraf

“Two tricks:

One — Put it as far back as you can tolerate and avoid it touching your tongue as much as possible.

Two — Put it in a medicine cup with a coffee stirring straw and another cup of something pleasant-tasting with another straw and drink them both at the same time.” — @brandythebookworm

“I have a sensitive gag reflex, struggle to swallow large pills, and need to take a large, awful-tasting tablet every morning. Whenever I can, I buy gel caps, but some prescriptions don’t have that option. I cut tablets in half if they’re splittable, then take one half at a time in applesauce or yogurt, covered fully. Make sure the smooth, uncut edge of the pill is facing forward. This almost always works for me!” — @karin-willison

Use something with a strong but good taste as a chaser:

“I usually follow that stuff with a strong ginger beer. Carbonation seems to help wash things out of my mouth better than non-carbonated drinks and ginger beer has a really strong taste so it gets rid of just about everything else.” — @werp

“Chaser is usually best. Mixing drugs with other stuff doesn’t usually completely get rid of the taste for me, so a chaser is the only option. Just definitely have it ready beforehand.” — @kitttieluv

Mask the flavor, or add flavor:

“My young son’s doctor cautioned that his IMPT medication had a terrible taste. My son cringed and cried after one spoonful of the med. He refused to take more unless I tasted it. I did! Yuck! Luckily, we had marshmallows! We ate some to take the taste out. They worked! Thereafter, I floated some small marshmallows on the spoon with the med. If needed, he could eat a few more marshmallows afterward to lose any remaining yucky taste. The doctor has shared this tip with other doctors, nurses, patients, and pharmacists. Hope this helps others!” — @ivote2usa

“I’m a disabled pharmacist. Look for a pharmacy that has a flavoring system available. It makes a huge difference! Most meds can be flavored with a number of different flavor choices. They also have some little ingredients that do a big job in making medicine taste better, like a sweetness enhancer and a bitterness suppressor, to name a few.

Another thought to keep in mind. When you are shopping for an OTC medication, suspension formulations almost always taste better than syrups and elixirs. A suspension is a liquid dosage form that is made of ground, solid medication that then is mixed into a flavored liquid. The flavored liquid coats, surrounds, and suspends the solid particles in a layer of flavor. Suspensions are milky looking, like the medicine in the syringe illustration. Elixirs, syrups, etc… are typically clear.

I hope this is helpful!” — @llarons

And if all else fails…

“Put it in a shot glass and slam it like a rockstar!” — @lymefoxhole

Getty image by Dr. B. Images.

Originally published: April 22, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home