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How do I Treat a Swollen Tongue?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated Feb 08, 2024
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If you suddenly find yourself suffering from a swollen tongue, it should be considered an emergency situation and thus emergency care should be sought immediately. While tongue swelling may not always prove to be serious, it can be. Seek emergency medical treatment from a qualified health professional in an effort to avoid serious complications such as airway obstruction and other difficulties in breathing.

A swollen tongue may be caused by some type of allergic reaction. While the allergy itself may not be dangerous, difficulty in breathing caused by a swollen tongue can create a life-threatening situation. There are no recommended methods of avoiding tongue swelling, other than being cautious of known allergies. Unfortunately, people can suffer from unknown allergies and suddenly find themselves with a swollen tongue.

Other causes can include illnesses and medications, getting poison ivy or other irritants in the mouth, or infection. Sometimes, a swollen tongue will develop over time instead of immediate onset. This can still be serious and it is a good idea to inform your health care provider right away before it worsens.

In the case of sudden onset, keep calm but act fast. If you do not have immediate access to a doctor, or it is after hours and the doctor’s office is closed, seek out an urgent care clinic or your nearest emergency room. It is better to have someone else drive you if possible. Epinephrine and antibiotics are two of the most common treatments for a swollen tongue, although these do not always work. Appropriate treatment depends on the cause of the swelling, which is why a qualified medical provider should be consulted.

There are options for self-treatment, only under a physician’s care and advice, if the issue becomes prevalent. This generally includes carrying an “EpiPen,” or epinephrine injection tool, that can be self-administered or given by a caregiver. It should be used only as necessary in a medical emergency. Using such tools should not replace emergency medical treatment but may allow you more time to get to the doctor or hospital.

Keep in mind that only a qualified health care professional can offer medical advice. All other suggestions are purely informational and should not ever be construed as medical advice. Also, please report any side effects or other issues from medicines or treatments to the FDA or Food and Drug Administration in the US or a similar agency in your area.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Dec 18, 2011

I always get a swollen tongue when I get a sinus infection although I don't know why. Thankfully it has never gotten so swollen that it would prevent me from eating or breathing.

I haven't done much to treat the swelling because it goes away when I treat my sinus infection with antibiotics. But I have wondered if there is something I should be doing for my tongue as well.

Has anyone else experienced a sore and swollen tongue with sinus infections? How do you go about treating it?

Or do you just treat the sinus infection and hope the swelling disappears along with it like I do?

By bear78 — On Dec 17, 2011

I thought that I was the kind of person who is not allergic to anything because I had never experienced a swollen tongue or other symptoms of allergies. But I've found out that allergies can develop as we get older too, and even to allergens we came come across many times before.

I've been eating cantaloupe my whole life and never had any allergic reaction. But last week, I had some cantaloupe that came in my fruit salad during lunch. About ten minutes later, my lips and tongue became swollen.

I had never experienced this before and rushed to the hospital because I didn't know what would happen. They gave me some medicine that reduced the swelling (I think it's called "angiodema") and prescribed another one just in case the swelling came back.

I completely agree with the article that when it comes to a swollen tongue and mouth, it's best to go to the hospital right away. We really don't know what might happen and it could become worse much faster than we realize.

By burcidi — On Dec 16, 2011

As unlikely as it sounds, my dad actually had his tongue stung by a bee one time. We were at a outdoor barbecue and a bee managed to get into his soda can. When he was taking a sip of the soda, the bee stung his tongue. His tongue became really swollen in a couple of minutes but we didn't worry because we know that he doesn't have any allergies to bee stings.

We just gave him some ice which he kept on his tongue for a while and some other cold foods like ice cream. He had a sore tongue for a couple of days but the swelling came down pretty fast with the ice.

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