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What are Tongue Blisters?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Tongue blisters, also known as tongue zits or fever blisters, are fluid-filled sores that develop on the tongue due to the presence of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). These blisters are considered a contagious condition that is easily spread through direct and indirect contact with an infected individual, such as intimate contact or sharing eating utensils. Treatment for tongue zits may involve the implementation of dietary changes and the use of topical ointments or antiviral medications.

Herpes simplex virus may be transmitted to another person through contact with a symptomatic individual who has an active sore, or lesion. Types one and two of the HSV are equally contagious and either's presence may trigger symptoms associated with the blisters. Once exposed, an individual may develop blisters on his or her tongue, lips, or chin, though the manifestation of blisters on the tongue is rare. Children who acquire HSV may develop a condition that causes the formation of sores and induces swelling in the child’s mouth, known as gingivostomatitis. Situations such as eating spicy foods, consuming acidic beverages, or habitual gum chewing may trigger the onset of tongue blister symptoms.

Tongue zits generally present as red or white bumps on the tongue that disappear within two weeks of forming. Individuals who develop tongue blisters may experience pain and discomfort that affect their ability to chew food or gum. Blisters that rupture may contribute to the formation of additional blisters elsewhere inside the mouth. Some people may develop warning signs, such as a tingling or burning sensation on their tongue, a few days prior to the blisters' formation. Symptoms may take up to three weeks to manifest following one's initial exposure to the HSV; following an outbreak, the virus may remain dormant until re-emerging to induce symptom recurrence when triggered.

Most tongue blisters require no medical treatment and dissolve without further complication within 14 days of their formation. Individuals who experience severe symptoms, including fever, have compromised immunity, or who develop frequent occurrences of blisters on the tongue should seek medical treatment. Additionally, blisters that do not heal or those that spread to other parts of the mouth or face with severity should be evaluated by a doctor.

When treatment for tongue blisters is necessary, it may involve the use of over-the-counter, topical ointments that work by moisturizing the affected area and preventing dryness. Mouth rinses may be used daily to sterilize the mouth and prevent further infection. Zinc creams may also be applied to alleviate the burning discomfort associated with blister formation and over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to ease inflammation. Individuals experiencing moderate to severe symptoms may be prescribed an oral, antiviral medication. Antiviral medications are utilized to speed healing, prevent recurrence, and alleviate the discomfort associated with fever blisters.

Individuals may be advised to change their toothbrush to prevent re-infection. Dietary changes, such as avoiding spicy, hot foods, refraining from drinking acidic beverages, and abstaining from sweets, may also be recommended. The sharing of eating utensils, drinking glasses, or intimate contact are all discouraged while the individual is experiencing an active lesion. Certain factors may trigger tongue zit development, including stress, hormonal changes, and illness.

Complications associated with tongue blisters are generally centered on the transmission of the herpes simplex virus. Individuals with compromised immunity or a medical condition who acquire the HSV infection may develop more severe symptoms. Additionally, those with tongue blisters should refrain from touching the lesions with their fingers due to the risk for additional transmission, which may lead to a worsening of infection.

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Discussion Comments
By bluedolphin — On Oct 05, 2013

I didn't know that a tongue piercing can blister but it happened to me. I got a huge blister right next to the piercing. I also have a sore and swollen tongue. My doctor says it's infected and I have to take antibiotics now. I kind of regret getting the piercing but at least it's being treated.

My piercing expert said that if I had kept it clean, this wouldn't have happened. I thought I was keeping it clean but I think piercings inside the mouth are difficult to keep germ free. I might have had an allergic reaction to the metal too.

By ZipLine — On Oct 04, 2013

@fBoyle-- How do you know that the blister is due to HSV? Have you been tested?

I'm not a doctor but as far as I know, blisters inside the mouth (if caused by HSV) are almost always due to HSV-2 which is the sexually transmitted virus. HSV-1 (cold sore virus) can cause blisters inside the mouth but it's kind of rare. HSV-1 usually causes blisters on the lips.

It's a good idea to get tested if you haven't already because if the blister is due to HSV-2, you can infect others through sharing utensils and personal items, kissing or oral sex.

Not all tongue and mouth blisters are caused by the HSV virus though. It could also be a canker sore which is pretty much harmless. That's why seeing a doctor to confirm is a good idea.

By fBoyle — On Oct 04, 2013

Are tongue blisters caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2? Does it make any difference in terms of treatment?

I have a small blister on my tongue and I don't know which type of HSV is the culprit.

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