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What Is COVID Tongue? Treatment, Causes & More


As the virus mutates and new strains emerge, it’s not uncommon for COVID-19 symptoms to vary. At first, COVID was characterized by fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell. But now it presents with a wider range of symptoms, including COVID tongue.

Many people have reported experiencing malaise in their tongue due to COVID, and in this post, we’ll address some frequent questions, including:

  • What is COVID tongue?
  • How common COVID tongue is?
  • What causes COVID tongue?
  • What’s the best treatment for COVID tongue?

Let’s get started

What is COVID Tongue?

Some individuals have experienced COVID tongue along with the standard symptoms.

It refers to a swollen tongue that:

  • Might develop bumps, ulcers, and white patches
  • Has a burning sensation
  • Causes muscle pain while chewing

Additionally, the inner surface of the mouth and lips may also develop ulcers.

In 2021, a study suggested that tongues with these conditions might be a symptom of COVID. However, they couldn’t come to a conclusion, as more information is needed to fully understand it.

How Common is COVID Tongue?

COVID tongue is not often listed among COVID symptoms by major health institutions, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nevertheless, researchers have identified it along with other mouth symptoms since early 2020. Such is the case of a Spanish study, which involved 666 COVID patients. In this study, 25% of the participants reported oral symptoms, including a swollen tongue, a burning sensation, and loss of taste.

Nevertheless, research in 2022 showed oral symptoms to be less common among patients, with estimates ranging from 15.4% to 20.5%. It’s worth noting that, as COVID has become less of a threat, most patients have mild to moderate symptoms and can recover at home. This may often include not contacting a doctor or reporting their symptoms. Therefore, there’s less information about current COVID symptoms than a few years ago.

What Causes COVID Tongue?

There are multiple possible causes related to the COVID tongue. As a matter
of fact, it may also be a sign of another bacterial or viral infection.

Some conditions that may cause a COVID tongue include:

  • Increased ACE2 receptors on your tongue: ACE2 receptors are proteins in your cells. When the virus SARS-CoV-2 binds to these receptors, it can enter your body and trigger inflammation. Considering that your mouth can serve as an entry point for the virus, when it binds to ACE receptors there, your tongue may swell.
  • COVID-related oral thrush: Oral thrush is a mouth fungus that can be triggered by multiple infections, including COVID-19. Additionally, it can be a side effect of certain medications administered to treat COVID.
  • Immune response: Your body can swell when fighting off an active viral or bacterial infection such as COVID-19. This immune response can extend to the tongue.
  • Oral herpes: The inflammation induced by COVID-19 has the potential to awaken dormant viruses in the body, including the herpes simplex virus. This activation can lead to the development of mouth ulcers.
  • Dry mouth: A frequent side effect of antiviral medications in COVID patients is dry mouth. Moreover, in certain instances, SARS-CoV-2 may induce damage to the salivary glands, reducing saliva production and resulting in dry mouth.

Do Vaccines Cause COVID Togue?

Multiple studies have assessed the negative effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, yet there’s limited research linking it to oral complications. In a case series from 2022, a review was conducted on individuals who reported oral adverse reactions after being vaccinated. Many of these individuals were aged over 60 and had pre-existing medical conditions. The study suggested that both age and underlying health issues might play a role in the development of “COVID tongue” due to their potential impact on the immune system.

Another study from the same year examined oral adverse reactions to COVID and seasonal flu vaccines. The most common symptoms reported were a tingling sensation in the mouth, a dry mouth, and swollen lips and tongue. The study found that both vaccines caused remarkably similar adverse reactions in the mouth.

All in all, there’s still insufficient evidence to link vaccinations with COVID tongue symptoms.

Treatment of COVID Tongue

Despite not being specific to COVID tongue, treatment for COVID-19 has shown good results in alleviating these symptoms. Plus, COVID tongue usually resolves on its own after recovery from the disease.

However, if you want a more specific treatment, some over the counter solutions are suggested, such as:

  • Mouthwashes with antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. They’re good for treating ulcers and white patches.
  • Saliva substitute rinses and lozenges to trigger saliva production for treating dry mouth
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to address tongue swelling and pain

When Should You Seek A Doctor for COVID Tongue?

If COVID tongue symptoms persist for over two weeks, you should seek medical advice. Healthcare professionals can prescribe stronger and more specific treatments to relieve these symptoms, including:

  • Steroid mouthwashes
  • Antivirals
  • Antibiotics
  • Low-laser treatment to address ulcers

Key Takeaways

There are a number of symptoms associated with COVID tongue, including swelling, redness, ulcers, and white patches. Although the cause of this symptom has been examined by multiple studies, there’s not enough evidence to draw any conclusions yet.

As of now, it’s unclear whether COVID tongue is a symptom of COVID-19 itself or if it results from disease progression. Moreover, it seems that preexisting conditions, age, and other infections can also influence its development.

All in all, it seems that COVID can manifest in multiple ways. Because of this, it’s important to watch out for COVID symptoms, and get tested promptly if you suspect an infection.

Do you believe you may have COVID? No matter where you are, or what type of test you need, find COVID testing locations near you with our global directory.

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What Is COVID Tongue? Treatment, Causes & More

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