What is glossitis?

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Glossitis in children: Overview

Glossitis is swelling of the tongue. The tongue looks smooth and may be an unusual color from pinkish to dark red. Glossitis is often caused by an infection. Other causes include injury, irritation from spicy foods, or a poor diet.

Glossitis can make it hard for your child to talk, chew, or swallow, especially if they get sores on the tongue.

Treatment for glossitis depends on the cause. An infection is treated with antibiotics. Other medicines can relieve swelling and pain. If the swelling is severe, your doctor may prescribe steroids.


Glossitis is redness and swelling (inflammation) of the tongue. Possible causes of glossitis include an allergy or infection, an injury to the tongue, and nutritional deficiencies.

Although most cases of glossitis are minor and can be treated at home, symptoms can cause problems with chewing, swallowing, or speaking. Glossitis may also cause trouble breathing, if swelling is severe. If breathing difficulties develop, emergency medical care is required.

How can you care for glossitis?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • You may want to eat a bland or liquid diet while you have glossitis. Bland foods include mashed potatoes, soft breads, cream soups, eggs, and soft and well-cooked vegetables.
  • Avoid spicy or hot foods and citrus fruits like orange juice or lemons that can make the swelling of glossitis worse.
  • Rinse your mouth with a mixture of a half-teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Floss your teeth every day. Brush your teeth at least two times a day. Clean your tongue when you brush your teeth.
  • Do not smoke, chew, or dip tobacco. Tobacco use can cause glossitis. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Glossitis: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.