Swollen Tongue -- Causes and Top 10
Natural Remedies
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Last updated September 7, 2016 (originally published July 19, 2010)

By Louise Carr,  Contributing Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by Registered Nurses,
Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial Board]

Talking, tasting, swallowing and kissing --- your tongue
affects  many aspects of everyday activity. Life can become
extremely difficult when your  tongue is damaged. What
are the causes of swollen tongue? When is tongue swelling
serious and when can swollen tongue be treated at home?
Are there any mouth washes that help with swollen tongue?

A swollen tongue is an abnormal occurrence where part or
all of your tongue is enlarged, bloated or simply fatter than
normal. Swelling is a common and important defense
mechanism and it can be vital to help the body fight off
infection and aid healing. However, swelling can be harmful
if it persists over time or it’s affecting how the rest of your
body works.  

Having a puffy tongue or swollen tongue can at best be
extremely irritating and at worst, life-threatening.
According to the American Dental Association, a swollen
tongue should be taken seriously because if the swelling
should spread into the throat it can partially or completely
block the air passage.

What Causes Your Tongue to Swell?

Swollen tongue is a symptom of a range of other
underlying conditions or disorders and not a problem in
itself. Common causes of swollen tongue include infection,
inflammation, trauma to the tongue, genetic disorders and

One of the most common causes is allergic reaction. The
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
says more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergic
diseases which can cause swollen tongue among other
symptoms (The Allergy Report: Science Based Findings on
the Diagnosis & Treatment of Allergic Disorders, 1996-
2001). A UK Department of Heath study found the
incidence of serious allergies had risen by 25 percent
between 2001 and 2005. In comparison, 34,000 Americans
are diagnosed with oral cancer (which can also cause
swollen tongue) each year, according to Medical News

Causes and Top 10 Remedies for Swollen Tongue

Treatment for your swollen tongue depends on the
condition that caused it and could be anything from a
course of drugs to gargling with a salt solution.

Allergic Reaction Is A Common Cause of Swollen Tongue

Swollen tongue can result from an allergic reaction to
medications, foods, bee stings and pollen. If you
experience a more serious attack, called anaphylactic shock,
you should consult a doctor immediately.

As well as swelling of the tongue, you could experience
hives, itching,
shortness of breath or rapid breathing or
changes in the color of your tongue. A 2007 study
published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
reports that around 25 percent of people with seasonal
allergies such as ragweed allergy develop swollen tongue
often along with itchy mouth and itchy lips when they eat
certain fruits and vegetables.

Author Joseph R. Perez, M.D., says that this condition is
called "oral allergy syndrome" (OAS). He reports that fresh
fruits and vegetables are more likely to cause oral allergy
syndrome but the problem can be present even with
cooked fruits and vegetables.

Although rare, allergies can also develop in response to
eating fruits and vegetables which have been treated with
pesticides. The culprits include organophosphates,
carbamates, fungicides, and botanicals, according to a 2006
report by E.J. Buffington of  Colorado State University's
"Colorado Envirnonmental Pesticide Education Program".

More generally, food allergies have increased by 18%
among Americans in the past 20 years, according to a 2011
study led by Dr. Anna Norwak-Wegrzyn from Mount Sinai
School of Medicine, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute. The most
common culprits in food allergies are "peanuts, tree nuts
and shellfish".

Butterbur can help your swollen tongue. Specifically, to
treat seasonal allergies or hay fever (allergic rhinitis) which
can cause swollen tongue, try the herb butterbur. A two-
week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 186 people
with intermittent allergic rhinitis found that the use of
butterbur at a dose of three standardized tablets daily, or
one tablet daily, reduced allergy symptoms as compared to
a placebo and bigger doses produced greater effects
(Schapowal A. ‘Butterbur Ze339 for the treatment of
intermittent allergic rhinitis: dose-dependent efficacy in a
prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
study,’ 2004).

If your swollen tongue is triggered by certain foods, avoid
those dishes or ingredients that trigger the reaction or
treat swollen tongue with a dose of antihistamine


Another type of allergic reaction which can cause a swollen
tongue is hair dye allergy. According to a 2012 study from
Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education
and Research in India, many women who are allergic to a
compound in hair dye called paraphenylenediamine (PPD)  
can suffer from symptoms including a hard, swollen and
protruding tongue.]

Trauma To The Tongue Causes Swelling

Another common cause of tongue swelling is trauma or
injury to the tongue. This will result in a sudden swelling
rather than a long-term change. It’s easy to damage the
tongue with the teeth, especially if you play sport.

Try taking a do
se of ibuprofen and suck ice chips to
minimize the swelling. Use purified water for the ice and
avoid ice cream because, even though it’s pleasantly cold, it
could introduce bacteria into your mouth, increasing the
risk of infection.

Minimize the swelling in your tongue by keeping your head
at a level well above your heart. This is easy during the day
but at night you’ll need to prop your head up on pillows to
keep it elevated.

Swollen Tongue Could Be A Symptom Of Oral Cancer

It’s important to realize that swollen tongue is much more
likely to be a sign of another, less serious condition but the
possibility exists that swelling over a long period of time
could indicate oral cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates oral cancer affects
one in 37,158 people in the US. Swollen tongue will not
usually occur on its own in this case, and would be
combined with symptoms such as red or white patches on
the tongue, a chronic sore throat, pain when swallowing or
numbness in the mouth. Check with your physician if your
swollen tongue persists or you also have a number of other
oral symptoms. (Read more about
mouth ulcers.)

Amyloidosis Can Cause Swollen Tongue

Tongue swelling that occurs over weeks or months could
indicate a condition called "amyloidosis".

Amyloidosis is a disease where a harmful protein called
, which is normally produced in your bone marrow,
builds up in the tissues and organs, causing the tongue to
expand over time. Systemic amyloidosis can cause serious
changes in virtually any organ of the body.

Amyloidosis is not a common condition. The Mayo Clinic
estimates that amyloidosis affects
fewer than 3,000 people
in the US annually. The disease is treated by correcting
organ failure and treating any underlying illness, infection

Gargling Can Help Swollen Tongue

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