Swollen Tongue: Causes And Treatments

Children are picking up fruits at the buffet

Does your tongue feel uncomfortably large in your mouth? Perhaps you're worried you may be having an allergic reaction to something you ate. A doctor or dentist can help discover the cause of your swollen tongue and provide treatment; though, don't wait for an appointment if you're also having breathing difficulties. Visit a medical professional immediately.

What Causes a Swollen Tongue?

The tongue is a versatile muscle that's vital for eating and speaking, and it doesn't take long to notice when it feels large and thick. Redness and changes in the surface texture could accompany the swelling. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the medical term for a red, inflamed tongue is glossitis, and allergic reactions, injuries, infections and irritants are a few of the most common causes of the condition.

An allergic reaction might be due to food, medicine or oral care products. Irritation can be caused by alcohol, tobacco or spicy foods. A skin condition, vitamin deficiency or hormonal issue may also cause tongue swelling. Finally, glossitis is sometimes a symptom of Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes dry mouth.

Food Allergens

Certain types of food can trigger an oral allergy, marked by an itchy mouth or a swollen tongue, while other foods cause a whole-body allergic reaction that may include the mouth. NIH lists apples, melons and pineapples as typical foods that trigger an oral allergy, and notes that the allergic reaction is often strongest when these fruits are eaten raw. Some foods that may cause a whole-body allergic reaction are eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, milk, tree nuts, wheat and soy.

Allergic Reactions

The Mayo Clinic explains that another term to describe swelling in the tongue, lips and face is angioedema, which means a swelling of deep layers of skin. Angioedema is an allergic reaction that can happen suddenly or over a period of time. Symptoms that often accompany the allergic reaction are hives, reddened skin, itching in the mouth, nausea, stomach pains, a runny nose and sneezing.

Food Allergy Research and Education warns that a swollen tongue, lips or throat are signs of a serious allergic reaction that can quickly become life-threatening without treatment. If you have swelling around or in your mouth and you have difficulty breathing or swallowing, begin to turn blue, have chest pain or feel faint, seek medical help immediately.

How to Treat a Swollen Tongue

A mild case of swollen tongue often goes away without treatment after a few days. It's imperative to see a dentist or doctor if your symptoms last longer than a few days, you experience breathing difficulties or your throat is also swelling. With the appropriate treatment, the swelling will go down. The Mayo Clinic writes that if the swelling is due to a food allergy, antihistamine medication is the usual prescribed treatment.

How to Prevent Tongue Swelling

If you know what food or other allergen caused your tongue swelling, you can prevent a repeat episode by avoiding the trigger food or substance. However, sometimes the culprit isn't obvious. In these cases, keep a diary of what you eat or use in or around your mouth. Whenever you experience swelling or other symptoms, make a note. With your doctor's help, you should be able to determine which food or product you need to remove from your diet or personal care routine.

Although tongue swelling is annoying, it's often possible to identify the cause and prevent the problem from returning. Speak to your dentist or doctor if you experience this symptom to receive treatment and discuss what steps to take next.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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