Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Why Children Hate the Taste of Medicine

According to a recent study, genetic variations in sensing bitter taste explain why children hate the taste of medicine


Getting children to take their medicine is challenging for parents. Bitter taste is the main reason given by children when rejecting medication but failure to follow treatment regimen could result in suboptimal dosing in children. Humans have different sensitivities to bitter taste due to genetic variations in bitter taste receptors found on the taste buds and children are more sensitive to bitter taste than adults.

To find out whether genetic variations in sensing bitter taste is related to the use of medicine in children, the researchers interviewed children aged 3 to 10 years about their experience in taking medication and determined their bitter taste gene variation from saliva samples. In separate interviews, the mothers were asked about their history of medicine formulation usage (liquid, pill or chewable) and reactions of children to the medicine.

The mothers reported that they preferred giving liquid formulation to their children. However, “nasty taste” was the top complaint given by children who readily rejected liquid medicine and majority of them were found to be genetically sensitive to bitter taste. There were fewer problems regarding medical compliance in children who were bitter insensitive. The study also found that bitter-taste sensitivity was related to solid formulation, with more bitter sensitive children accepting pills compared to non-tasters.

The study emphasized the importance of considering genetic variations and previous experience of children and their parents regarding medication in future pediatric clinical trials. These factors will contribute to the effectiveness and greater acceptance of medical formulations by children.



Mennella JA, Roberts KM, Mathew PS, Reed DR. Children’s perceptions about medicines: individual differences and taste. BMC Pediatrics. 2015; 15:130. doi: 10.1186/s12887-015-0447-z





Written by Ana Victoria Pilar






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