Having a sore throat is uncomfortable and inconvenient, and even more so when accompanied by a sore tongue. The combination of a sore throat and tongue isn’t a rare symptom of certain conditions, but your diagnosis depends on the other signs and symptoms you experience.
Causes of a Sore Tongue and Throat
Mouth ulcers are a common reason for a painful throat and tongue. Whether they’re caused by canker sores, cuts from sharp foods or bacterial infection, they can affect any of the soft tissues inside your mouth – including your tongue, inner cheeks and the gum tissue surrounding your teeth. However, don’t count out conditions such as candidiasis, thrush or burning mouth syndrome as other common reasons for a sore throat and tongue.
Signs and Symptoms
Patients who have any of these conditions typically show some or all of the following signs:
- Tiny, red or white spots on the tongue and throat
- Blisters containing fluid
- Sore and swollen throat
- Pain and difficulty swallowing
- Tongue swelling
- Sensitivity to hot foods
It’s also possible to have a fever and experience chills or sweating alongside this oral irritation.
The first step in determining the cause of your sore tongue and throat is to find (and deter) the cause of the pain itself. Move to quit smoking, step up your oral health regimen by brushing after each meal and rinse your mouth daily. This type of mouth rinse has a bubbling action that specifically cleans and soothes ulcers and other mouth irritations. If your sore throat and tongue are indeed related to oral hygiene, this should eliminate the cause and promote long-term healing. Of course, feel free to use non-prescription medications such as lozenges and ibuprofen to reduce swelling in the interim.
When to See a Doctor
Most mouth sores and irritations typically disappear within 14 days. But if your sore throat and tongue return, or if it lasts longer than this period with no sign of clearing, make an appointment with your doctor. Alternatively, sore throats that are exceptionally severe – or bring with it fever of over 101, according to the America Osteopathic Association – might indicate a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment. You may also be a candidate for more comprehensive treatments to tonsillitis, swollen glands or a thyroid condition.
Keep in mind cancers of the head and neck can also cause symptoms such as a sore throat and tongue, but symptoms often persist beyond a few weeks in spite of treatment. They may also be accompanied by hoarseness, coughing, trouble breathing, ear pain or unexpected weight loss, as explained by the University of Michigan Health System.
With proper dental care and a good oral care regimen, however, you can protect your teeth and tongue from basic health problems and deal with related concerns immediately when they arise.