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Overview

Mouth burns happen quite often and can occur when eating or drinking extremely hot foods or drinks. Burns may occur anywhere in or around the mouth such as the lips, inner cheek, upper palate, the gums, the tongue, and even the throat.

Signs and symptoms

A mouth burn can be quite painful and damage to the affected tissue occurs which may result in swelling of the area and blister formation.

How to treat a mouth burn

The first thing to do is remove the hot food or drink if it hasn't already been swallowed. Don't attempt to swallow whatever is in the mouth and at this stage don't really worry about manners if you are in the company of others. If one worries about what others will think or say, expelling the contents in a napkin will work in this situation.

The longer the hot content stays in the mouth the more damage will occur to the tissue exposed to the hot temperature.

If available, put an ice cube in the mouth immediately after sustaining the burn. This will not only help to decrease the pain but will also aid in reducing swelling of the affected tissue caused by the burn. The faster the treatment is initiated, the better the outcomes for the affected individual.

If ice isn't available, then rinsing the mouth and gargling with cold water will be a suitable alternative. Any cold drink nearby will suffice, really. Ice pops are also very useful and may be consumed if available.

If the lips are affected then applying an over-the-counter pectin ointment or a gel containing a local anesthetic such as lidocaine directly to the burn wound may help to reduce the pain and help with healing.

Drinking milk will also help to coat the area that has been burned and the cold temperature of the liquid will also reduce the pain.

Precautions

Spicy foods (chilies, Tobasco sauce) and foods with sharp edges (chips, nuts) can worsen the pain so one needs to avoid eating these types of foods after sustaining a mouth burn. In fact, avoid eating or drinking any other temperature hot foods and drinks until any wound sustained by the burn is healed.

How to prevent burning yourself 

The following tips and suggestions will help one avoid burning themselves with hot foods or drinks:

  • Be patient.
  • Avoid immediately eating foods or drinks that have come straight out of the microwave.
  • Let the contents cool down before consuming or help cool down the food or drink by gently blowing on it. 
If the burn or wound lasts longer than 10 days despite all the mentioned suggestions and treatment options, or eating and drinking is still not possible without pain, then it is recommended to consult with a medical health professional to assess and investigate the affected individual. Other possible problems may have to be ruled out and further treatment could be initiated.  

Other possible problems 

If the mouth burns without being exposed to temperature hot food content, then burning mouth syndrome is a condition that may need to be investigated, and if confirmed, treated further.

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