A path with different respiratory medicines along the way.

What Do Respiratory Medicines Taste Like? 

Many of us in this community have nebulizers and inhalers. These devices allow us to inhale respiratory medications.

So, what do the different respiratory medications taste like? Let’s discuss.

What are the types of inhaled medications?

Albuterol inhaler (Ventolin, ProAir)

This is a bronchodilator. It opens up your airways relatively fast.

Gosh, the first time I inhaled two puffs of this medicine was in 1980. I do remember it having a distinct chalky-like taste. Since those first two puffs, I feel this medicine has no taste.

Albuterol solution (Ventolin)

This is the same medicine as in the albuterol inhaler above. I do not notice this medicine having a taste.

I have some patients who say it has a salty taste. That would be because the medicine is mixed with about three cc of normal saline, which is salt water.

Ipatropium Bromide solution (Atrovent)

It is another bronchodilator. It has a somewhat nasty taste.

I have had some patients tell me that it tastes terrible. Although, I have never had a patient specifically compare the taste to a specific nasty flavor. It just tastes bad.

Although, like the albuterol above, after you use it a few times, your tongue gets used to it and has no taste.

Albuterol/ Ipratropium Bromide (Duoneb)

This is a combination of the two different bronchodilators. The chief complaint I get here is that it tastes bad.

I would imagine this is the ipratropium bromide that they are tasting. After using it for the first couple of times, it has no taste.

Acetylcystiine (Mucomyst)

This is a medicine used to thin thick secretions. It helps you bring up thick and stubborn secretions.

This medicine is often dubbed “pucomyst.” This is because it has a smell that resembles rotten eggs.

If you are sitting on an airplane and someone next to you is eating eggs, you could say, “It smells like pucomyst.” You could also say it smells like a fart. So, not the best-tasting medicine.

Lidocaine

This medicine has been around for a long time. It is used to numb your airway before procedures such as a bronchoscopy (a scope that allows a doctor to look inside your lungs) or endoscopy (a scope that a doctor uses to look inside your esophagus, intestines, and stomach).

Although, more recently, it has been used to help people get rid of a cough. The most reported testament here is that it tastes like bananas.

Corticosterid Inhalers

These are inhalers that contain inhaled steroids. I have never really noticed them having a particular taste.

Honestly, I don't recall my patients saying they have a particular flavor. Although, I looked this topic up online and saw a study done in 1993. Participants described them as having no taste, sour taste, sweet taste, or bitter taste.

The only corticosteroid inhaler that sticks out to me is Aerobid. This one was used in the 1980s. It tasted like rotten mints.

I took it for about a week and told my doctor I wouldn’t use it. So, that was the end of that. He switched me to another brand of inhaled corticosteroid.

The taste of respiratory medications

For the most part, most of us here could care less what respiratory medicines taste like. What we do care about is that they do the job of helping us breathe easier and keeping us that way.

So, rarely do I have a patient complain about the taste. Even when they do complain, they continue inhaling the medicine as prescribed.

What are your thoughts on this not-so-important topic?

What inhalers and solutions do you inhale? What do they taste like?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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