Having a sore throat is uncomfortable and inconvenient, and even more so when accompanied by a sore tongue. The combination of a sore throat and tongue isn't a rare symptom of certain conditions, but your diagnosis depends on the other signs and symptoms you experience.
Causes of a Sore Tongue and Throat
Mouth ulcers are a common reason for a painful throat and tongue. Whether they're caused by sores, cuts from sharp foods, or a bacterial infection, they can affect any of the soft tissues inside your mouth – including your tongue, inner cheeks, and the gum tissue surrounding your teeth. However, don't rule out conditions such as candidiasis, thrush, or burning mouth syndrome as other common reasons for a sore throat and tongue.
Signs and Symptoms
Patients who have any of these conditions typically show some or all of the following signs:
- Tiny red or white spots on the tongue and throat
- Blisters containing fluid
- Sore and swollen throat
- Pain and difficulty swallowing
- Tongue swelling
- Sensitivity to hot foods
It's also possible to have a fever and experience chills or sweating alongside this oral irritation.
The first step in determining the cause of your sore tongue and throat is to find (and deter) the cause of the pain itself. Consider quitting smoking, and step up your oral health regime by brushing after each meal and rinsing your mouth daily with a mouthwash. If your sore throat and tongue are indeed related to oral hygiene, this should eliminate the cause and promote long-term healing. Of course, feel free to use non-prescription medications such as lozenges and ibuprofen to reduce swelling in the interim.
When to See a Doctor
Most mouth sores and irritations disappear within 14 days. But if your sore throat and tongue returns, or if it lasts longer than this period with no sign of clearing, make an appointment with your doctor. Alternatively, sore throats that are exceptionally severe or long-lasting might indicate a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment, according to the NHS. You may also be a candidate for more comprehensive treatments for tonsillitis, swollen glands, or a thyroid condition.
Keep in mind that cancers of the head and neck can also cause symptoms such as a sore throat and tongue, but symptoms often persist beyond a few weeks in spite of treatment. They may also be accompanied by shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, or earache, as explained in this article from the BBC.
With proper dental care and a good oral care regime, however, you can protect your teeth and tongue from basic health problems and deal with related concerns immediately when they arise.