The tongue is a somewhat neglected source of health information. Symptoms like fever, headaches, and vomiting usually attract more attention than tongue-related symptoms. Nonetheless, if you haven’t been feeling well, looking at your tongue could help you discover what the problem is.
A swollen tongue is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. This is because a swollen tongue can quickly get worse to the point that it blocks your airflow, leaving you to suffocate. If your tongue is swollen, see a doctor as soon as possible.
One of the most common causes of a swollen tongue is a medication allergy. ACE inhibitors, which are used to treat high blood pressure, can often cause a swollen tongue if an allergy is present. Even common drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause a swollen tongue if you have an allergy to the drug.
Another probable cause is food allergy. Food allergies can cause a range of symptoms from abdominal pain to hives and rashes, to itching.
The most common food allergies in children include peanuts, soy, tree nuts, milk, wheat, and eggs. Among adults, the food allergies seen most often are nuts, peanuts, citrus fruit, fish, wheat, and shellfish. Allergic reactions often need medical attention, so talk to a doctor if you think you have a food allergy that is causing a swollen tongue.
Sometimes, bee sting allergies can cause the tongue to swell. However, this isn’t as common as swelling of the throat or lips. Nonetheless, if you think you may be allergic to bee stings, it’s important to seek medical advice, as bee sting allergies can be life-threatening.
Occasionally, an infection can cause a swollen tongue. The infection would be located deep inside the tongue, or in the bottom of the mouth. The telltale sign that your tongue swelling is caused by a mouth infection is that it will develop slowly over a couple of days. Untreated infections of any kind can become life-threatening, so see your doctor if this is the case.
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If your tongue has been looking whiter than normal, the most probable cause is poor hygiene. The white coating on your tongue is made up of things like bacteria and dead cells. If your white tongue is indeed caused by poor hygiene, you can easily fix the problem by gently brushing your tongue with a toothbrush, or by using a tongue scraper. Brushing your teeth and tongue twice daily, as well as drinking plenty of water, will prevent the white coating from coming back.
A white tongue can be a symptom of thrush, especially if the white coating is patchy in appearance. Thrush is a yeast infection caused by the yeast Candida. Candida grows naturally in small amounts in everyone’s mouths, but occasionally it can grow out of control, causing thrush. Thrush is most common in infants and older adults because the immune system is less strong at these stages of life. Thrush is easy to treat with prescribed antifungal medicine. You can also try a natural route. Garlic, coconut oil, oregano oil, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and turmeric are some examples of natural anti-Candida foods you can add to your diet. A low-sugar diet and probiotic supplements can help as well.
Other causes of a white tongue include dry mouth, mouth-breathing, and fever. Very rarely, a whitish tongue could be a symptom of congenital heart disease, HIV, syphilis, or tongue cancer. Of course, rule out the more common causes before jumping to the conclusion that you must be dying of tongue cancer!
If your tongue is bright red all over, it can be a symptom of scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is a bacterial disease caused by the same bacteria that cause strep throat. The difference between scarlet fever and strep throat is that in the case of scarlet fever, the bacteria release a toxin that causes the rash and other symptoms. It’s most common for children ages 5 to 15. When left untreated, scarlet fever can cause serious damage to many of the body’s systems. Other symptoms of scarlet fever include a bright red rash over most of the body, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, high fever, nausea, and headache. If you think you or your child might have scarlet fever, go to the doctor right away.