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Medicine Tricks

June 12, 2018

 Anyone else struggling to make a child take his/her/their medicine, because even with camouflaging and puddings and all kinds of other tricks, the medicine still just tastes awful? Why does medicine have to taste SO BAD? Is there a scientific reason behind this?


All good questions that my children (and other people’s children) have asked me recently, so I turned to my scientific sources to find an answer. It turns out that orally given medicines often taste bitter, and that children are markedly more sensitive to the bitter taste than adults are, both of which combine to make bad tasting medicine an even bigger problem.  Check out this science link for a review on this topic: https://www.clinicaltherapeutics.com/article/S0149-2918(13)00335-4/abstract. Scientists are also not good at figuring out how to measure ‘bitterness,’ nor are they good at effectively masking a bitter taste, even with sugar, salt, or all kinds of other food additives that might help.


So what can you do if your child needs a bitter tasting medicine? Lots of tricks are reported online, with various degrees of success. Personally, I like the one where you use a medicine dropper to squirt the medicine along the inside cheek of your child. Because this bypasses the tongue taste receptors, if done correctly, your child shouldn’t be able to taste the bitter flavor at all!


Of course, another option is to try to teach your child to swallow pills, and apparently kids as young as 3 or 4 can be taught to do this correctly! I have no direct experience with this, but check out these links for tips if you are brave enough to try: https://www.babycenter.com/404_how-can-i-teach-my-child-to-swallow-a-pill_70926.bc and: http://seattlemamadoc.seattlechildrens.org/pill-swallowing-sooner-than-you-think/.


Have a great day, scientists!

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