You're in a hurry to get out the door, so you grab your slightly overfull cup of coffee and take a big sip so it doesn't slosh everywhere. You know what happens next, right? Burnt tongue. Or maybe it's not your morning cup of caffeine, but your lunch straight out of the microwave. Same result, though. Whether it's from hot food or a hot drink, a tongue burn is no fun. There are several things you can do as first aid to relieve the pain and keep that burning sensation from getting any worse.
However, it's important to know when your burnt tongue is a minor problem and something for which you should seek medical attention. Most burned tongues are first-degree burns, meaning your tongue will be a little red. Your taste buds will heal, but things may not taste the same and your tongue will be sensitive for up to a couple of weeks.
A second-degree burn means you may have blisters and definitely more pain. If the pain doesn't go away after a few days, or if you have swelling or blisters in your throat or roof of your mouth, check in with a health professional. You may also have a metallic taste in your mouth, which is normal and will go away as your tongue heals.
It's hard to get a third-degree burn on your tongue. If you do, you'll know it because of the pain and charred look, and you should head to the emergency room right away.
What Helps a Burnt Tongue?
Here are five things you can do to relieve the pain of a burnt tongue:
1. Cool Your Burnt Tongue Down
The first thing to do is cool your burning tongue. You can suck in air, but better is to get some cold water on your tongue. You can suck on an ice cube or ice chips, but don't put the ice directly on the burn since the ice can stick to your tongue and make it worse. Better is to suck on a popsicle. You can also eat something cool, like applesauce or yogurt.
2. Rinse With Saltwater
Just as you might gargle with saltwater to help a sore throat, you can do a saltwater rinse to help your burnt tongue. Salt has antiseptic properties and will help relieve some of the pain. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to a cup of cool water and swish around in your mouth gently for 30 seconds or so before you spit it out.
3. A Spoonful of Sugar Helps a Burnt Tongue
Pouring sugar in your mouth is not a typical home remedy that encourages good oral health, we know. But sugar has pain relieving properties, so sprinkle a small bit of sugar on your tongue and press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Even better, use honey which has antibacterial properties.
4. OTC Pain Relievers
If you have severe pain, try taking over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve the pain and inflammation.
5. Keep Things Clean and Easy
The healing process for burns of the tongue takes some time, so avoid anything hot for a few days. Ditto for spicy foods and acidic foods. Think of your burnt tongue as any other injury and keep things simple until the pain goes away. You may find that you have dry mouth, so stay hydrated to help things heal. Avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes because they can irritate your injured mouth.
It will take some time, but your burnt tongue will heal.
This post was originally published on January 5, 2021.