How To Relieve “Paxlovid Mouth” + Simple Tea Recipes

In the face of a pandemic that has not yet ended, ideas for evergreen content as a blogger continue to come in interesting forms. Ha!

After roughly three years of dipping and dodging, COVID finally caught me in early January 2023. Can I be frank? I was wicked pissed, and I’m not sorry about “New Englanding” my expression. Being immunocompromised with 12+ years experience working it the field of Infection Prevention & Control, I knew I didn’t want to find out what COVID would be like for an asplenic such as myself. Despite my limited contact with folks in the week prior to my infection – I took a couple brief trips to the grocery store and a handful of visits to my local coffee shops to get matcha lattes to go, all while wearing quality KN95 masks – one particular contagion slipped through and made my life miserable.

I hate to say “mild” because of all of the evidence building up regarding potential lasting effects of COVID, so let’s just say that my symptoms were relatively tame. Being immunocompromised, I had my Paxlovid within hours of my RAT testing positive. My initial symptoms were a runny nose, sneezing, myalgia, fatigue fever, and chills. Both the myalgia and headache disappeared within 12 hours of my first dose of Paxlovid, with my fever breaking within 48 hours. The runny nose and sneezing dissipated within about 72 hours. I am thankful for good science! However, almost three weeks past my initial onset of symptoms, I continued to suffer from unparalleled fatigue.

But…have you heard of Paxlovid Mouth? A common side effect of Paxlovid is to experience, to paraphrase multiple sources, a temporary alternation of taste while taking the medication. While I have read various numbers, the most common number I have come across is 16: the percentage of people reporting this side effect in clinical trials. The technical name is dysgeusia, though Paxlovid Mouth is a lovely colloquialism. I have a much better description:

Imagine walking past a pile of garbage on an NYC sidewalk on a 95 degree day. Take that pungent odor and mix it with a handful of 50 year old pennies that have lost their luster. Take that mix, concentrate it, and smear it on the back of your tongue in a spot that’s just too far back to scrub with a toothbrush or gargle away. Imagine that sensation lasting over the course of five days, virtually 24/7.

Paxlovid Mouth, folks, in a nutshell.

The taste was so bad that I literally could not sleep at night, counterproductive in terms of resting while ill. I would wake up multiple times a night to brush my teeth or gargle mouthwash in vein. If I had to suck on a mentholated lozenge at 6 a.m., I’d just wake up and hope for a quick nap later in the day.

With this all being said, I would absolutely take Paxlovid again should I become reinfected, though I am aiming to dodge COVID again for another three years, preferably longer.

Since I was stuck at home, I had ample time to experiment with the best ways to get rid of this rancid flavor permeating my mouth. The best way? Wait about 8 hours until your final dose of Paxlovid and it’ll resolve on its own. Ha! Short of that, I spent plenty of time trying my own remedies and Googling others. What I have below are a few methods that I hope will help the next Paxlovid Mouth sufferer.

– – – –

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a clinical health care professional, and this post is based on my own experiences. Please take Paxlovid as directed by your health care professional, and please do not try any of these if you have an allergy or contraindication.

– – – –

Remedies for Paxlovid Mouth

Chrysanthemum Tea

While on a crazy bender of not cooking for five straight days and ordering take-out – honestly, it was glorious! – I bought a noodle dish from one of my favorite noodle shops, The Handpulled Noodle in West Harlem. I’ve long been a fan of their chrysanthemum iced tea, it’s light and refreshing and counters the savory noodle dishes well. However, about two days until my Paxlovid course, I noticed a notable reduction in the bad taste in my mouth after I drank it with my dinner that evening. It didn’t erase it, but it was muted to the point where I didn’t think about it for a few hours. I had plenty of time to experiment, so I ordered again from them the next day…and I ordered three chrysanthemum iced teas! While not perfect, they provided the best relief out of any remedy I tried. I also went down the rabbit hole of peer-reviewed studies regarding chrysanthemum, Chinese herbs, and halitosis. (Halitosis is not equal to dysgeusia, but! It was interesting reading, none the less.)

Look for chrysanthemum tea online, Google is your friend for many varieties.

Cinnamon Tea + Cinnamon Tea Recipe

Cinnamon was my first discovery when trying to cure my bad taste ills. I happened to have a box of Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice tea in my pantry, which I had bought by accident a few months earlier, thinking I had grabbed a box of their chai tea bags. This was a lucky mistake on my part! This tea was on repeat for many days! Luckily, in the absence of having cinnamon tea, a few cinnamon sticks can be your friend:

Simple Cinnamon Tea Recipe:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 – 2 cinnamon sticks (depending on the strength of flavor you’d like!)

Add water and cinnamon sticks to a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks, use a fine sieve to remove any bits of cinnamon stick that have broken off while simmering. Sip while warm; top with additional water if the cinnamon taste is too strong.

Photo by Anna Pou on

Flavorful Meals

Through my research of anecdotes, many people experienced the unpleasant taste, but not an absolute alternation of flavor. Speaking for myself, I had the bad taste, but everything I ate tasted fine and was not affected. Eating provided a reprieve! I ate many meals with spices, herbs, and flavorful sauces to get me over the hump for a few hours. I certainly did not lose my appetite while sick, thank goodness!

Ginger Tea + Ginger Tea Recipe

You can’t go wrong with ginger, either. Its hot bite has always worked as a palate cleanser for me, as well as another effective remedy for Paxlovid Mouth!

Simple Ginger Tea Recipe:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 2″ inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated or chopped roughly
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Add water and ginger to a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove ginger. Add honey and/or lemon juice, if desired. Sip while warm.

Photo by Maria Tyutina on

Orbit Spearmint Gum

Orbit Spearmint Gum isn’t just for link lickers and cootie queens! (Oh, god, did I just age myself with that reference?) For better or worse, I can chew a piece of gum for a long time, longer than my jaw often likes. In this case, I felt the mint from this gum provided the longest lasting relief: As long as I had a piece in my mouth, I had a reprieve from Paxlovid Mouth. This gum was surprisingly long lasting; I had some Extra mint gum, but it did not do the job I wanted it to. Not a spearmint fan? I’m sure peppermint will work just as well!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: