Medication Flavoring and Palatability for Children

Getting children to take their medication can be extremely difficult. Parents can sometimes spend hours trying to give their kids medicines that they refuse to take because of the bad taste. Even then, children will sometimes spit up part of the medication given to them, leaving the question of how much medication they actually consumed. It is extremely important for children to take their medication, as well as the correct dosage of it, so that they can have better health outcomes and also prevent recurrence of the same health issue. Medication adherence has always been one of the biggest issues for children, and it can be aided through the use of medication flavoring.

Many medications can be salty, sour, or bitter. Ingredients in drug formulations can be oily tasting as well. These are all issues that prevent children from adhering to medications, but can be resolved through different flavoring options. Salty medications, such as lithium, magnesium and zinc, typically require fruity flavors, as well as sweeteners to aid the fruity flavors in covering the salty taste. Fruity flavors that can be used for this include strawberry, raspberry, orange, cherry and watermelon. There are also non-fruit flavors that have been shown to be effective. These include butterscotch, maple, and marshmallow.

Sour-tasting medications, including phenytoin and phenobarbital, require the use of a sweet vehicle, and sometimes xanthan gum, to form a protective coating over the taste buds on the tongue to decrease the tongue’s sensitivity to sour taste. There are also several flavors that have shown to be effective at masking sour taste. These include raspberry, cherry, tangerine, pineapple and mango.

Bitter medications, such as penicillin antibiotics, antihistamines and decongestants, are some of the hardest ingredients to mask. Sweeteners are always needed, as well as the use of flavor. Flavors that have been shown to mask bitterness include chocolate, spearmint, creme de menthe, orange, tangerine, marshmallow, banana creme and caramel.

Some compounded medication formulations require the use of oily ingredients. These oily ingredients can decrease palatability of the medication, so certain flavors can be used to increase this. These flavors include bubble gum, cherry, grape, lemon, lime, orange, spearmint, strawberry and tangerine.

Medication flavoring is extremely important to aid in medication adherence, so reach out to your pharmacist today to find out more information about getting your child’s medication flavored.

This content was originally provided by Taylor Chafouleas PharmD candidate 2021.


PCCA. (2019, June 19). The Art of Flavoring: How to Mask the Taste of Different Medicines. Retrieved December 13, 2020, from