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The tongue contains a lot of nerve endings which make it extremely sensitive to external stimuli. It is covered with numerous clusters of sensory cells called taste buds which help you identify all the different flavors and temperatures of food.
That is why if you accidentally consume something scalding hot, it can end up burning your tongue leaving your taste buds swollen and numb. Consequently, until the tongue heals, you are unable to detect the true flavor of foods and drinks. But more than that, a singed tongue can make it difficult for you to eat and drink normally because of how much it hurts.
Just like the rest of the body, the tongue also gradually repairs itself by shedding the damaged cells and replacing them with new ones. This healing process can take some time, but there are things you can do to speed it up and minimize discomfort along the way.
Remedies to Heal a Burnt Tongue
Here are some easy ways to soothe the pain and sensitivity associated with a burnt tongue:
1. Cool your tongue down immediately
Your first step after accidentally burning your tongue should be sipping cold water or chewing ice chips.
Heat gets trapped in the tissue and continues to burn the tongue even after the offending source is removed. So, it is important to cool down the tongue as quickly as possible to stop the burning process, reduce inflammation and the risk of scarring.
2. Rinse your mouth with salt water
Burning your tongue results in inflammation which leads to pain.
One simple way to minimize this discomfort is by rinsing your mouth with a saline (salt) solution. This remedy works by virtue of the strong anti-inflammatory effects attributed to salt, which is necessary to manage inflammation. (1)
Burn injuries impair the protective barrier of the skin which leaves it more susceptible to infections. Flushing your mouth with salt water helps reduce this risk as well.
Mix ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of water and rinse your mouth with this solution after meals and before you go to bed.
3. Eat yogurt
Yogurt is naturally cooling and can help soothe a burnt tongue. It is also replete with nutrients and healthy bacteria that ward off infections and accelerate tissue repair. Simply put a spoonful of cold frozen yogurt on your tongue and let it sit for a while before gulping it down.
Expert Tip: You can also make homemade yogurt pops by freezing yogurt in a popsicle mold. Sweeten it with honey and add berries to make it a delicious treat.
4. Apply aloe vera gel topically
Aloe vera is widely recognized as a skin healing agent and has long been used for treating burn injuries. (2) Its rich water content helps lubricate the damaged surface of the tongue and strengthens its barrier function. This is an important requisite for timely skin repair and to keep infections at bay.
Plus, aloe vera is full of vital nutrients and antioxidants that bring down tissue inflammation and promote cell renewal.
Scoop the gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf and apply it over your burnt tongue to quickly soothe the pain and swelling. Regular use of this remedy will protect your tongue from infections and make it heal faster.
Expert Tip: Sweeten the gel with sugar or honey and freeze it in ice molds. This will allow you access in case of emergencies.
5. Use mint to soothe the burn
Mint contains menthol which gives it strong cooling and anti-inflammatory properties. It works as a natural anesthetic when applied on the skin as it temporarily desensitized the underlying nerve endings.
Using this remedy on your burnt tongue can help numb the pain and is also helpful in reducing the swelling. (3) Moreover, the antibacterial activity of mint helps kill the bacteria on your tongue to keep it free of infections.
Here are some ways to use mint:
- Grind some fresh mint leaves into a paste and smear it over your burnt tongue.
- Apply mint toothpaste on your burnt tongue.
- Sip cold mint tea.
- Chew mint gum.
6. Dietary recommendations
When you burn your tongue, it can be very painful and swollen for the first few days which makes it hard to consume solid foods. Thus, it is recommended you consume a soft diet that is easier to chew and swallow until your tongue feels less tender.
Better yet, go for refrigerated items like yogurt and applesauce that can help cool down the tongue and soothe the irritation. Even when you do resume hot foods and drinks, take small bites and sips to avoid burning your tongue again.
Also, make sure to drink water or rinse your mouth after each meal to remove any food residue from the tongue as it can invite bacteria and come in the way of proper healing.
Meanwhile, you need to give up the following until your tongue heals completely:
- Spicy foods that can sting the wound and make your tongue hurt even more.
- Hot drinks can further burn the tongue and slow down the healing process.
- Alcohol can irritate the burn wound and delay tissue repair.
7. Make use of honey
Honey has long been used for healing different kinds of wounds, including burn injuries. It repairs and protects your skin through various mechanisms.
For starters, honey is a natural humectant that provides intensive hydration to the skin and forms a thick layer over it to keep moisture from escaping. It helps curb tissue inflammation to relieve pain, redness, and swelling.
The heavy dose of nutrients and antioxidants in honey help speed up tissue regeneration to expedite the recovery process. Lastly, this therapeutic nectar also has antimicrobial properties that fight infection causing germs in the mouth that can end up infecting your damaged tongue tissue. (4)
Simply apply some organic or medical grade honey onto your burnt tongue and let it sit for a while so that it gets properly absorbed.
Note: Don’t give honey to children under 1 year of age as it may contain toxic spores that can cause infant botulism.
8. Use vegetable glycerin
Vegetable glycerin can help soothe and heal your burnt tongue. It hydrates the damaged tissue which is essential for proper healing. Plus, it brings down underlying inflammation to reduce pain, redness, and swelling.
How to use:
- Apply some vegetable glycerin on your tongue and let it sit for as long as you can before spitting it out.
- Rinse your mouth with cool water thereafter.
- Reapply multiple times throughout the day.
Alternatively, you can rinse your mouth with a glycerin-based mouthwash a few times a day.
9. Over-the-counter pain medication
If your burnt tongue continues to hurt despite the above-mentioned remedies, you can take certain OTC painkillers like ibuprofen for quick relief. Make sure to follow the dosage instructions to avoid any undue side effects.
Additional Tips to Deal With a Burnt Tongue
- Maintain good oral hygiene to reduce bacteria in the mouth that can end up infecting your damaged tongue tissue if allowed to overgrow.
- Always check the temperature of foods and drinks before putting them in your mouth to prevent future tongue burns.
When to See a Doctor
A tongue burn caused by hot foods and drinks is rarely a cause for concern but can be quite painful and irritating.
But if your condition fails to improve even after 10 to 14 days of home treatment, consult your doctor for a proper check-up to rule out more serious underlying conditions like burning mouth syndrome.
It takes only a second for you to burn your tongue from hot foods or drinks, but several days for the pain to subside, the taste buds to recover, and the wound to heal completely.
Be patient, and continue to follow the remedies and tips provided in this article to minimize your discomfort and promote speedy healing.