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

A tongue.
EpiPens are used in the treatment of severe allergic reactions.
Article Details
  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Images By: Adrian Costea, Greg Friese
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2014
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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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