What Is ‘Paxlovid Mouth’? Here’s What You Should Know – Including How to Get Rid of It

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This rare symptom is entirely harmless, but completely disgusting.

Paxlovid has been widely hailed for its extremely effective use as an antiviral drug created by Pfizer to treat Covid-19 — but for a small number of people who use it, there’s a surprising side effect that’s pretty unpleasant to deal with, even if it’s completely harmless.

It’s called “Paxlovid mouth,” and the descriptions people are using to explain their experience range from colorful to horrifying to downright absurd.

Let’s get one thing completely straight: Paxlovid mouth isn’t dangerous at all. It’s a residual (and from most reports, completely terrible) taste that a small portion of Paxlovid users report experiencing while they’re being treated with the drug. One person described the taste to the Wall Street Journal as feeling “like your mouth is just clenched around a grapefruit rind.” Another person said it felt like “the smell that hot garbage has, but in your mouth.” That really paints a picture, doesn’t it?

Writer Emily Farris wrote for Bon Appétit, “Others have described [paxlovid mouth] as ‘metallic grapefruit’ and I guess that’s accurate if you also throw in notes of ‘dry dog food’ and ‘over-stuffed dumpster on a hot summer day.'”

Oh, and there’s also this kicker from Wall Street Journal writer Alex Janin: “Patients who have taken Paxlovid have described it as sun-baked trash-bag liquid, a mouthful of dirty pennies, and rotten soymilk.”

It’s safe to say that Paxlovid mouth sounds completely unappetizing. But why does it happen to begin with? Here’s the lowdown on the chemical reason for this side effect, along with a few tips for dealing with it.

Why does Paxlovid leave a bad taste in your mouth?

A rep for Pfizer recently explained why Paxlovid mouth happens. The symptom is called “dysgeusia,” and it tends to happen to 5-6 percent of people who take the drug.

As for why it happens, that might have to do with one of the chemicals within Paxlovid, which is called ritonavir. It helps boost the levels of antiviral medication, the Journal reports, and it has been associated with dysgeusia in the past.

The good news is that dysgeusia is completely harmless, and it doesn’t mean the drug is failing to work in your system. But the bad news is that there isn’t a medical cure for that terrible taste in your mouth, and if you want Paxlovid to actually treat your Covid, then you’ll have to stick with the drug for the entire recommended period of time your doctor prescribes it for.

This means that a whole lot of people have to deal with a terrible taste for days on end, with some reporting the experience to be so nauseating that it physically makes them gag nonstop — and as a result, some patients have started to get pretty creative in finding ways to deal with that awful taste without stopping treatment.

How to deal with Paxlovid mouth if it happens to you

If you end up being one of the small portion of people who take Paxlovid and end up suffering this vile taste, there are a few home remedies you can try out — and all of them have to do with blanketing the nasty flavor in your mouth with a stronger, more appealing flavor instead.

That Bon Appétit essay includes a very specific personal strategy for dealing with Paxlovid mouth: Eating Red Hots cinnamon candy all day long.

“By the time I finished off two big bags, my husband had tested positive for Covid too, so when a friend texted asking what they could drop off on our porch, I replied, ‘BRING ME ALL THE CINNAMON CANDY, PLEASE!'” the writer shares. “It was the absolute best thing anyone could have done for me.”

Another victim of Paxlovid mouth, a woman named Jeanette Witten, told The Wall Street Journal that she tried cinnamon candy, too, along with another overpoweringly flavorful food. She found that pineapple was so effective at masking the terrible taste in her mouth that she ate it nonstop while she was taking the drug.

“I probably have no tooth enamel left,” she told the publication, “but it was the only thing that saved my sanity.”