Burned Tongue

Consuming hot foods and beverages can cause you to burn your tongue. Although tongue burns are unpleasant, they’re usually not serious. Drinking cold beverages and eating soft, cool foods can help. Pain medications, like over-the-counter NSAIDs, can relieve pain and inflammation. With most burns, your tongue and taste buds will heal within a week or two.


What is a tongue burn?

Eating foods or drinking liquids that are too hot can burn your tongue. Your tongue is a highly sensitive organ that helps you recognize tastes and textures. It consists of tiny bumps called papillae. Some of the papillae contain taste buds. Burning your tongue can damage the papillae and your taste buds. The damage can cause your tongue to hurt and make it harder to taste food and drinks.

Fortunately, most tongue burns aren’t serious, and taste buds heal quickly. And there are home remedies you can use to cope while your tongue heals. More serious burns, on the other hand, require immediate medical attention.

How serious is a burned tongue?

Most tongue burns aren’t serious and heal on their own. As with any burn, if the heat has damaged deep layers of tissue, you’ll need to see a healthcare provider immediately to prevent complications like infections.

  • First-degree burn: The burn only affects the top layer of tissue. You’ll feel mild pain, and your tongue may appear hot pink or red. Most tongue burns are first-degree burns.
  • Second-degree burn: The burn damages the surface tissue of your tongue and some tissue underneath. Your tongue will hurt and may appear hot pink or red, as with a first-degree burn. Blisters may form.
  • Third-degree burn: The burn damages the innermost layers of your tongue. The pain in your tongue may feel excruciating, or you may not feel any sensation in your tongue at all. Your tongue may appear white or black, like it’s charred. It’s rare to get a tongue burn this serious.

You’ll be able to treat first-degree burns at home. A healthcare provider needs to treat second- and third-degree burns. If you’re unsure about the severity of a burn, see a healthcare provider.


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Symptoms and Causes

What causes tongue burns?

Tongue burns can happen when you don’t allow food or drinks adequate cool time before consuming them. Being distracted is a major culprit. Many people eat meals or snacks in a rush and aren’t paying attention to things like heat. It’s easy to take a big bite of piping hot food or a gulp of a steaming hot drink because you’re multitasking. You’re going through the motions of eating or drinking, but your mind is elsewhere.

Microwaved foods are a major cause of tongue burns. Microwaves heat food unevenly, which can be deceptive. While the first bite may seem cool enough, the next one may burn your tongue.

What are the symptoms of a burned tongue?

Symptoms will depend on how serious your burn is. In addition to the burning, you may experience:

  • Tongue pain.
  • A loss of sensation in your tongue.
  • Hot pink or red tongue that appears inflamed and swollen.
  • Decreased sense of taste or a metallic taste in your mouth.
  • A smooth tongue (your papillae may momentarily disappear if damaged).

People with a condition called geographic tongue may also have a smooth tongue, redness and a burning feeling in their mouths, but this is different from a tongue burn. Geographic tongue is a harmless condition involving smooth red patches bordered by white or gray tissue on your tongue. Doctors aren’t sure what causes geographic tongue, but it’s unrelated to burns.


Diagnosis and Tests

Home remedies that can relieve the pain associated with a burned tongue
Foods and drinks that create a cooling effect can soothe a burned tongue.

How are tongue burns diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can tell how serious a burn is by examining your tongue. They’ll ask what happened before it started burning to try and pinpoint a cause.

Management and Treatment

How do you heal a burnt tongue quickly?

Most burns heal quickly on their own, within a week or two. In the meantime, you can use several home remedies to feel better faster.


  • Drink something cool. Most people reach for a cold drink after a tongue burn. This is a good instinct. It’s also a good idea to continue sipping on a cold beverage for several minutes afterward. With more serious burns, the cold can stop the heat from burning into the deeper layers of your tongue.
  • Eat cold (or cool) soft foods. For several days after your tongue burn, eat foods like yogurt, ice cream and chilled applesauce that feel gentle on your tongue.
  • Suck on ice chips or popsicles. Sip a cold drink, or suck on ice chips and popsicles if it reduces the burning and feels soothing. Take care that your tongue doesn’t stick to the ice.
  • Coat your tongue with milk. Many people who enjoy spicy foods use milk to reduce the heat. Milk can also soothe a burned tongue.
  • Use sugar or honey. Similar to milk, you can coat your tongue with honey. Honey also has antibacterial properties that can prevent infection. Another option is to sprinkle sugar on your tongue. Sugar can lessen the pain.
  • Rinse with saltwater. Saltwater can cleanse your mouth of any bacteria that may cause an infection following a tongue burn. Take care not to overdo it, though. Too much salt can irritate your injury. Dissolve about 1/8 a teaspoon in eight ounces of water, rinse and then spit out the saltwater mix.
  • Take pain medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) or other over-the-counter NSAIDs can reduce the pain and inflammation of a burned tongue.
  • Take vitamin E. Vitamin E can help speed the healing time associated with burns, including tongue burns. Squeeze a 1,000 IU liquid capsule directly onto your tongue to promote healing.
  • Attend to your oral hygiene. Continue to brush your teeth and floss while your tongue is healing, taking care not to touch your tongue. Keeping your mouth free of bacteria can prevent infection while your tongue is healing.


  • Drink hot beverages. The heat can aggravate your burn and worsen the pain.
  • Eat foods that can irritate your tongue. Steer clear of acidic foods like citrus, and spicy, salty or crunchy foods that can aggravate your already sensitive tongue.

See a healthcare provider if your tongue isn’t healing or still hurts after a week.



How can I prevent a tongue burn?

The best way to prevent a tongue burn is to taste test your food before taking a big bite. For example, take a small sip before drinking a hot beverage. In addition to protecting your tongue from burns, focusing on your food and drink can help you eat more mindfully. Mindful eating can help you make healthier food choices and allow you to savor your food more.

Outlook / Prognosis

How long does it take for burnt taste buds to heal?

Your tongue heals fast. The cells in your taste buds regenerate every one to two weeks. Even if foods taste less flavorful for a short while following a tongue burn, your taste should return to normal within a week or so.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

See a doctor or dentist immediately if you have symptoms of a second- or third-degree burn. Make an appointment if you’ve tried home remedies and your symptoms haven’t improved within a week.

See a healthcare provider immediately if you have symptoms of an infection, including:

  • A fever.
  • Worsening pain, redness or swelling.
  • Drainage or pus coming out of your tongue.

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between a burned tongue and burning mouth syndrome?

A burned tongue shares symptoms with a condition called burning mouth syndrome — a burning sensation in your tongue or the roof of your mouth. But they’re not the same.

Unlike a tongue burn, burning mouth syndrome isn’t caused by damage to your tongue’s tissue. Instead, the burning is more of a sensation than a reaction to damaged tissue. It’s usually difficult to identify the cause. The burning sensation starts randomly, gradually worsens throughout the day and often improves at night. The cycle usually repeats the next day.

Burning mouth syndrome won’t naturally heal like a tongue burn. Instead, you’ll need to visit a healthcare provider to get diagnosed and treated.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The hectic pace of everyday life means that most people experience tongue burns at some point. It’s easy to take an enthusiastic bite of a pizza fresh out of the oven or a large gulp of recently brewed coffee without thinking about their temperature. Follow your instincts if you suddenly burn your tongue. Grab a cool drink of water or milk. Treat your tongue gently while it’s healing by avoiding salty, spicy or crunchy food. If you’re concerned that a burn is serious, see a healthcare provider. They can assess your injury and potentially prevent more serious complications, like an infection.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/13/2022.

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