Halp! What should I do if I’ve burned my tongue?


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Photo: Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

There’s a high price to pay for wanting to feel cozy. As we try to get our hygge on, swaddled in a weighted blanket, it takes all of 0.02 seconds before—ack—you burned your GD tongue. That’s what you get for wanting a nostalgia-imbibing cup of cocoa or, God forbid, tea within 15 minutes of boiling it. Pop goes the hygge bubble, because when you burn your mouth, it feels like you’re dying and you never want to eat food again.

First thing’s first: how legit is this burn? Even if it feels like someone committed arson in your mouth, there’s a slight chance you could be getting too worked up. Put the pizza down and pause…is this a sharp sting, or are you blistering? “Often times when eating hot foods, like pizza or coffee, you can experience a superficial burn of the mucosal lining of the mouth,” says Payam Daneshrad, MD, of Daneshrad Clinic ENT. “If a blister forms, it is best to leave it intact. If the blisters ruptures, a non-water soluble salve like Bag Balm can protect the raw area.”

Next step: Cool down the mouth

But maybe skip the sucking-on-an-ice-cube thing. There have been more than a handful of studies that frown on using ice to aid in the healing process, and the general consensus is that you want to use something that has graduated to liquid form. Yup, go the route of H20 or something decidedly refreshing. “Drink something cold or frozen to help stop any further damage from the burn,” says Jason Abramowitz, MD at ENTA. And don’t feel like you should stop at one glass. Even if you’re a bit nervous about putting anything in your mouth, you’re going to benefit by continuing to drink regularly.

“It’s also really important to keep your mouth hydrated,” Dr. Abramowitz adds. “Drink a lot of fluids. Salt water gargles are great at both soothing the area and keeping it moist. Just a teaspoon of salt for a cup of water is all you need. Do that once or twice a day.”

And now, we feast

What foods are good and bad after a burn? This part is a slight bummer because, odds are, you were chowing down on something delicious before you burned your tongue. If you’re recklessly going to continue eating your mozzarella sticks, godspeed, friend.At least wait until the cheese isn’t like magma. And going forward, treat your maw with plenty of TLC.

“Imagine that there is a burn and a small scab in your throat,” Dr. Abramowitz says. “You want to do what you can to help it settle and heal. Soft, mushy, smooth foods such as yogurts, puddings, mashed potatoes and Jell-O are great. Dry foods or foods that are particularly sharp or crunchy—i.e. chips—are not ideal and can irritate the area.”

Another thing to steer clear of? Anything acidic. Dr. Abramowitz advises against spicy foods, citrus, vinegar, and mint. Candidly, the last one surprised me, because I would’ve jumped straight to something winter fresh-y. The thing is, though, you don’t want to put anything too stimulating in your mouth. As Dr. Abramowitz better explains, “The juices from these foods are irritating; think of your fingers tingling when peeling a grapefruit.”

What if your mouth is still in agony?

If you’re looking to calm the still-lingering burning sensation, there are more a few ways to go. “Cepacol spray can treat the discomfort until the area heals,” Dr. Daneshrad says. “This usually takes one to two days.” Dr. Abramowitz also recommends an over-the-counter oral gel to soothe you. “Some of them have an anesthetic in them that also helps with the pain,” he adds. And finally, both can vouch that a numbing medication is fineif you’re trying to get through the day—so a bottle of Motrin or Tylenol can help you out.

Overall, it may be disorienting to have your world rocked by a sudden mouth burn. But if you treat it right, you’ll be back in your hygge bubble in no time. But do see a doctor if the blistering gets worse. You don’t want to have a death-by-pizza-situation on your hands.

Once your tongue has cooled down (phew!), celebrate with some nice cream or these easy pumpkin fudge bars

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