Taste changes due to cancer treatment medicines

Taste changes due to cancer treatment medicines

Medicines your child has during cancer treatment can sometimes bring about taste changes.

Key points to remember

  • some cancer treatment medicines can bring about taste changes
  • this might mean your child doesn't like some of their previously favourite foods
  • they might enjoy foods they didn't like before

How can treatment affect my child's taste?

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

Medicines your child has during cancer treatment can sometimes bring about taste changes. The following changes are common:

  • foods tasting differently from the way they did before treatment
  • food likes and dislikes changing from day to day
  • a preference for salty or strong tasting foods
  • food fads where only a few certain foods appeal - these fads are often short-lived

How can I make food appealing?

Here are some things you can do that others have found helpful:

  • explain to your child that medication can make some foods, even their favourite ones, taste differently and that things will return to normal when their treatment finishes
  • prepare some new foods for your child and explain that this is a good time to try different foods and flavours - they may be surprised!
  • because it can be frustrating to manage the fads and taste changes, it is a good idea to keep a wide range of foods available to choose from, including some of your child's favourites
  • experiment with herbs, spices, sauces, pickles and onions to change the flavour of food
  • marinate meat in fruit juices, salad dressings, sweet and sour sauces, soy sauce or barbecue sauce
  • some foods like red meat may taste metallic so offer chicken, fish or eggs instead
  • try using plastic utensils as this may help avoid the bitter or metal taste from metal cutlery

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

This page last reviewed 25 May 2018.
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