ELI5, why does cough medicine have to taste so bad?


Hi! I’m currently sick and having to down cough medicine pretty regularly. Is there a reason it tastes so goddamn awful? Have we just not found a way to make it taste good, or do companies just not care enough to try?

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it doesnt ive had some alright tasting cough medicine, there was this super thick cough syrup i had when i was younger and it actually tastes good. Though i believe it is to prevent kids from drinking too much

Depends on what ingredients, but a lot of the time, the active medicines are VERY bitter… or medicine-y.

Masking that bitterness while ensuring shelf stability can be tricky, and often results in what you’re tasting lol

Try Dimetapp or Delsym. Some flavors you cannot effectively mask, like the bitter chemically flavor of energy drinks. And, if medicine tastes too good, it makes it that much easier for people to abuse it.

To answer your question, I believe many cough medications are alcohol based and most strong alcohols taste bad. Which is why we have delicious mixed drinks like strawberry daiquiris and pina coladas. If it is prescription cough medication it may taste bad because of the presence of codeine. Opioids are often bitter and have an “asprin like” taste.

Unrelated to your question, but since you are sick and seemingly hate the taste of cough medication as much as I do, I recommend Delsym 12 hour cough medicine. I’m not positive why exactly Delsym tastes so much better than other cough brands (Like Robitussin or Nyquil), but it does. I believe it tastes better because it is alcohol free AND contains high fructose corn syrup.