What Is 'Paxlovid Mouth' And How Can You Treat It?

Paxlovid is Pfizer's antiviral medication that targets the COVID-19 virus (via Drugs.com). It is a combination of two drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use in adults and children over the age of 18 who weigh more than 88 pounds and test positive for COVID-19.

Side effects of Paxlovid include allergic reactions, liver problems, resistance to HIV drugs, high blood pressure, and nausea, per Pfizer Laboratories. However, the drug has one rather unpleasant side effect that some people have described as "sun-baked trash-bag liquid," and "a mouthful of dirty pennies and rotten soymilk," according to the Advisory Board. This condition has been referred to as Paxlovid mouth, but its technical name is dysgeusia, and it affects 5.6% of patients who self-administer the drug. The condition is an irregular sense of taste, and it can also be caused by infections and vitamin deficiencies, explains the Cleveland Clinic.

How to treat the altered sense of taste

The best way to treat Paxlovid mouth is to try to offset the bad taste in your mouth with something that has a strong flavor, per Advisory Board. Infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Medicine, Scott Roberts, explains that one way you can cover the bad taste in your mouth is to suck on medicated flavored tablets and mints. Doctor and infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center, Shivanjali Shankaran, also suggests consuming a spoonful of peanut butter or drinking chocolate milk before taking a dose of Paxlovid. Chewing cinnamon gum is another option because it stimulates the production of saliva, counteracting dry mouth, which can intensify the bad taste in your mouth.

While Paxlovid mouth might be difficult to live with, it is important to take the full course of the medication to avoid a rebound case of COVID-19. According to the Cleveland Clinic, dysgeusia does go away on its own once the cause is removed, so once you complete a course of Paxlovid, things should return to normal.