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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction on the Tongue?

By Angela Farrer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Signs of an allergic reaction on the tongue include swelling, a tingling or burning sensation, difficulty breathing or speaking clearly, and sometimes a strange taste resembling metal or copper in the mouth. Sensitivities to certain foods are common causes of these symptoms. Some types of allergic reactions on the tongue can be minor while others are life threatening in people with more severe food allergies. The appearance of an unhealthy tongue is sometimes one of the first signs of a possible food allergy, and treating an allergic reaction on the tongue requires medical intervention when the ability to breathe is significantly restricted.

Many types of allergic reactions to foods begin within a short time after an allergy sufferer eats them. In addition to swelling, raw and irritated sores known as hives can also sometimes appear on the tongue, as well as on the lips and inner lining of the mouth. Hives may also be accompanied by an unpleasant bitter taste due to the body's negative reaction to the food item. The mildest signs of an allergic reaction on the tongue often clear up on their own within a day, and avoidance of the allergy-inducing food is generally the most effective measure against this minor version of a food sensitivity.

Treating an allergic reaction on the tongue normally depends on the severity of the symptoms. Minor swelling of the tongue can usually be diminished with a dose of over-the-counter antihistamine medication, and doctors usually advise sufferers with tongue and mouth hives to avoid salty or spicy foods until the sores completely heal. In addition to eliminating foods that cause these types of allergic reactions, some allergy specialists may also prescribe injections of more concentrated antihistamines to minimize the chances of more serious reactions.

A severe allergic reaction on the tongue is often characterized by limited breathing due to the noticeable amount of swelling. Sufferers may make wheezing sounds in efforts to draw deeper breaths, or they may sometimes attempt to cough with limited success. These kinds of breathing problems can sometimes indicate the beginnings of a more serious health risk known as anaphylactic shock, a condition that generally needs to be treated right away with an injection of adrenaline-based medication. Doctors treating these types of severe allergies often teach patients how to administer this injection to themselves in case they ever have such a reaction and are unable to quickly reach a hospital.

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Discussion Comments

By discographer — On Jan 29, 2015

My wife is allergic to shellfish and although we are very particular about where we eat and what we eat, she did experience a few scares when we were visiting Europe. Sometimes at restaurants, pieces and remnants of shellfish get into other dishes. There is never a 100% guarantee so my wife keeps her EpiPen with her at all times.

I am allergic to a few things too but the most I've experienced was itchy tongue. Tongue and throat swelling is far more dangerous since it can cause suffocation. It's best to take precautions.

By ddljohn — On Jan 28, 2015

@bear78-- That happens to me too. I too thought that it was an allergy but I looked it up and it's actually because of an enzyme in pineapple called 'bromelain.' This is a tenderizing enzyme, it breaks down protein. That's why it's used to tenderize meat sometimes. Other similar fruits like kiwi and papaya have similar enzymes. This is why they leave a strange flavor in the mouth. They actually start to tenderize our tongue as we eat them but it doesn't result in damage since we chew and swallow fairly quickly.

The strange part is that it doesn't happen to my family members. My mom can eat lots of fresh pineapple and not experience this. So maybe it has a genetic component too. It also doesn't happen from canned pineapple. The canning process removes most of this enzyme.

Having said this, I'm not a doctor. If you suspect allergies to a food, you need to stay away from it. It's possible that you are allergic. You may not have had swelling previously, but what if it happens next time? So please avoid it and see your doctor. You can get tested for various food allergies.

By bear78 — On Jan 28, 2015

I've noticed that whenever I eat pineapple, I get a very strange taste in my mouth afterward. I've not noticed and swelling or redness. It's just the strange, awful taste on my tongue that lingers for some time. It's fine while I'm eating the fruit, the taste occurs soon afterward. Is this a sign of allergies?

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