CPR First Aid

What Temperature Makes a Tongue Burn?

“Eat it while it’s hot!”

This is something that people often hear. There certainly is some wisdom in eating food once it is freshly cooked. The ingredients are quite fresh and newly prepared. In addition, the flavour fades away as the dish cools down.

While there are many additional benefits to eating hot food, there are boundaries. If the food is too hot, it can scald the tongue. But what temperature would this be at?

Let’s take a look at what temperature food needs to be to make a tongue burn.

The Benefits of a Hot Meal

A burnt tongue is nothing to scoff at. It is a painful nuisance that many people are better off without. If it is so bad though, why do people proverbially “play with fire” and enjoy hot meals? Let’s take a look at some of their benefits.

A burnt tongue is nothing to scoff at. It is a painful nuisance that many people are better off without. If it is so bad though,

Better Taste

The first and most obvious benefit is the taste. This goes way beyond just subjective experience though. Researchers have studied this, uncovering a reason why heat makes food taste better.

People’s taste is based on receptors. We have receptors to pick up different kinds of tastes like sweet and sour just to name a few.

Researchers found that the warmer the food, the more intense the signal is sent to the brain. Thus, the flavour people experience is enhanced.

Improved Digestion

Another benefit of eating hot food is that it helps with digestion. This was traditionally believed to be the case and has since been backed up by science.

The act of mastication or chewing breaks down food. From there, it enters the stomach where digestive juices further break it down.

These juices are partially responsible for making sure that people get the nutrients they need from their food. If the food is cold, these juices have to work much harder to break it down.

More Nutrition

Closely related to improved digestion is that hot food helps people absorb more nutrients.

As stated previously, when people eat cold food, their bodies have to work harder to break it down and extract the nutrients. This isn’t as big of an issue with hot food.

Not only are digestive juices more effective, but other processes like absorption are as well. Bear in mind though that this does not cover all types of food.

All in all, this means that people get more out of their meals when they’re served hot.

What Temperature is Too Hot?

Now that we have gone over the benefits of hot meals, it’s time to address the question at hand. At what temperature does food burn a tongue?

There are general ranges that we can work with. Any food or beverage that reaches about 43 °C is already hot enough to give people a burned tongue. At this range though, it is merely a superficial burn.

If the food or beverage reaches over 70 °C, then this will instantly burn to your tongue.

Now that we have gone over the benefits of hot meals, it’s time to address the question at hand. At what temperature does food burn a tongue? There are general ranges that we can work with.

Understanding Tongue Burns

When the tongue experiences a burn, it can lead to various discomforts and temporary changes in its functionality. The burn damages the delicate papillae, the small bumps on the tongue’s surface that contain taste buds. This damage can result in heightened sensitivity, making even mildly spicy or acidic foods feel overwhelmingly hot and irritating.

Additionally, if the burn is severe, it may cause swelling, affecting the ability to taste and leading to a diminished sense of taste. In some cases, a burnt tongue can also affect the roof of your mouth, further contributing to discomfort.

As the tongue heals, individuals may notice a condition known as “geographic tongue,” where the papillae become irregularly shaped, creating a map-like appearance on the tongue’s surface. Fortunately, with time and proper care, the taste buds and papillae can regenerate, and the sense of taste gradually returns to normal.

Experiencing a burnt tongue can be a temporary setback to your sense of taste and overall enjoyment of food. However, the body’s remarkable ability to heal allows for the restoration of the damaged papillae and taste buds over time. While waiting for the healing process to take its course, it’s best to avoid spicy foods and hot drinks.

Symptoms of a Burnt Tongue

Never had a tongue burn before and aren’t sure whether you are currently experiencing one? Don’t worry. Check out this list of symptoms to see if your tongue has been burned or not.

Pain and Swelling

This is the most common symptom associated with a burnt tongue. It can either be a sharp pain or a throbbing one.

The tongue will also start to swell up. This is caused by the injury done to the tongue’s tissue. This symptom means that the burns have only reached the outer layer of the tongue. It is a case of a first-degree burn.

Blisters Forming

If blisters start to form on the tongue, then this means that the tongue has reached a second-degree burn.

Not only is there pain and swelling, but there is also damage done to the tongue’s tissue. In some cases, the tongue might even start to bleed.

White or Blackened Tongue

In more severe cases, the tongue might start to turn white or black. This is a third-degree burn and it means that not only is there damage done to the tongue’s tissue, but also to the muscles and nerves found in the tongue.

This is a very serious case and people who have this symptom should go to the hospital immediately.

Remedies for a Tongue Burn

There are simple and effective home remedies that can aid in the healing process and promote overall wellness. Here are some tips to treat a tongue burn:

Cool Water, Ice Chips, Popsicles, and More

The first and immediate step in treating a tongue burn is to rinse your mouth with cold water. The cool temperature creates a comforting sensation and acts as a protective barrier, guarding your tongue against further irritants.

You can also try rinsing your mouth with soothing salt water or consuming cool, soft foods like applesauce. If you’re looking for relief, you can also mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water and use it as a gentle mouth rinse.

Cold Compress Application

For persistent pain, applying a cold compress to the affected area can be beneficial. Avoid placing ice directly on the tongue, as it may cause further damage to the tissue. Instead, wrap some ice cubes in a clean cloth and gently press it against the tongue for about 10 minutes. You can repeat this process every hour or as needed.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

In cases of severe pain where anesthetics aren’t readily available, over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be helpful. However, it is essential to avoid aspirin, as it can increase bleeding in the affected area.

Foods that are Better Eaten Cold

While some might say that all food is best served hot, there are those who beg to differ. Let’s take a look at what type of food is an exception to the rule:

  • Salad
  • Seafood
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs
  • Cake and Pastry
  • Soups

As you can see, there is a wide variety of food that people commonly eat cold. The next logical question would be why?

The Benefits of a Cold Meal

Many people might not believe it, but some food actually has more nutrients when eaten cold. The reason for this is that in some foods like vegetables and fruits, heat can actually destroy some of the nutrients found.

For example, vitamin C is a nutrient that is particularly known for being easily destroyed by heat. This means that foods high in this vitamin are best eaten cold.

Apart from that, certain nutrients are absorbed better this way. The example we have is beta-carotene in carrots. It is a type of nutrient that is actually better absorbed by the body when the food is cold.

The Mysterious Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is a perplexing and chronic condition characterised by a persistent and unexplained burning sensation on the tongue, lips, palate, or throughout the entire mouth.

Individuals affected by this condition may experience varying degrees of discomfort, ranging from mild irritation to intense burning pain, even though there may be no apparent visible abnormalities or underlying medical causes. The sensation can persist for weeks, months, or even longer, leading to frustration and a negative impact on the individual’s quality of life.

Is there a cure for BMS?

While no definitive cure has been found, maintaining excellent oral hygiene remains crucial for individuals grappling with this elusive condition. Using gentle toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush can help prevent further irritation and discomfort. Ensuring dentures fit properly and practicing meticulous care for any oral appliances can also play a vital role in managing BMS-related symptoms.

Regular dental check-ups and consultations are essential in monitoring oral health and identifying any potential triggers or underlying factors contributing to the burning sensation. Dentists may recommend specific mouthwashes or therapies to alleviate discomfort and maintain oral health during the course of treatment.

Save Yourself the Inconvenience

We hope that all this information we’ve provided will give you a better appreciation of both hot and cold foods.

A tongue burn in particular increases in pain the higher the temperature is. Save yourself the inconvenience and always be wary of foods that are too hot.

Understanding and using this information is a good way to look out for your health and that of your loved ones. With health being as important as it is, ensures that you can safeguard everyone’s health with the right first aid practices.

Learn more through CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.


How long does it take for a burnt tongue burn to heal?

The healing time for a burnt tongue can vary depending on the severity of the burn. Minor burns, often referred to as first-degree burns, tend to heal within 3 to 7 days. These burns primarily affect the outer layer of the tongue and typically involve symptoms like redness, pain, and minor swelling.

For more severe burns, such as second-degree burns, where the damage extends deeper into the tissue layers, healing may take 1 to 2 weeks or sometimes longer. These burns can cause blistering, more intense pain, and possibly some mild scarring.

Is it hard to heal your burnt tongue?

Healing a burnt tongue is generally not too difficult, but it can be uncomfortable for a few days. The severity of the burn will determine how long the healing process takes. Most minor burns, like those from hot foods or beverages, will start to feel better within a few days and usually fully heal within a week or two.

However, if your burnt tongue doesn’t show signs of improvement after a week or if you experience severe pain, blistering, or any concerning symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a medical professional. They can assess the severity of the burn and provide appropriate guidance or treatment if necessary.

Does a burnt tongue have long term effects?

Experiencing a burnt tongue from consuming hot food or beverages is common and generally does not have long-term effects. The discomfort and pain associated with a burnt tongue usually subside within a few days as the affected taste buds and tissue heal.

In some cases, repeated or severe burns could lead to minor changes in taste perception for a short duration. It’s important to let your burnt tongue heal naturally, avoid consuming extremely hot foods, and give your taste buds time to recover.

Does putting salt on a burnt tongue help?

Yes, putting salt on a burnt tongue can provide some relief, but it might not be the most effective remedy. Salt can help draw moisture out of the burnt area, reducing inflammation and easing pain.

However, using this remedy cautiously and in moderation is important, as too much salt can exacerbate the discomfort. It’s generally recommended to rinse your mouth with cool water first and then apply a small amount of salt on the tip of your tongue, allowing it to dissolve naturally.

Does putting ice on a burnt tongue help?

Ice can provide temporary relief by numbing the area, constricting blood vessels to reduce swelling, and lowering the sensation of pain.

To use ice effectively, wrap it in a clean cloth or place it in a plastic bag and gently apply it to the burnt area for short intervals, around 10 minutes at a time, with breaks in between to prevent frostbite. Additionally, drinking cool fluids and avoiding hot or spicy foods for a short period can further aid healing.



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