A prospective study to assess the palatability of analgesic medicines in children

J Adv Nurs. 2013 Mar;69(3):655-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06050.x. Epub 2012 Jun 7.


Aim: This study examined children's opinions on the taste of three analgesic medicines: paracetamol, ibuprofen and codeine.

Background: Many medicines for children are unpleasant and unacceptable. Research has shown that children's taste preferences differ to adults, in whom palatability is often tested. Little British research exists on children's opinions on the palatability of medicines. This study aimed to address this gap in knowledge.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Methods: Between May-September 2008, hospital inpatients aged 5-16 years rated the taste of required analgesics on a 100-mm visual analogue scale. This incorporated a 5-point facial hedonic scale. They were also asked their favourite flavour and colour for a medicine.

Results: A total of 159 children took part. Eighty-five males (53·5%) and 74 females (46·5%). The median age was 8 years (Inter-quartile range 6-11). The taste of ibuprofen was significantly preferred to paracetamol or codeine. Significant differences were observed depending if the medicine rated was taken first or second (for example pre-medication with paracetamol and ibuprofen). Younger children (5-8 years) were more likely to choose the extremes of the scale when grading than older children were. Preferred flavours on questioning were strawberry 44% and banana 17%. Favourite colours were pink 25·8% and red 20·8%, with girls more likely to choose pink and boys blue.

Conclusion: Ibuprofen was the most palatable analgesic medicine tested. Children reported they preferred fruit flavours and colour was sex dependent. Nurses when administering two medicines together should consider giving the least palatable first, for example paracetamol before ibuprofen for pre-medication.

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Codeine / therapeutic use
  • Color*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Taste*
  • United Kingdom


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Acetaminophen
  • Codeine
  • Ibuprofen