My Tongue Is Itchy! Could It Be an Allergic Reaction or Something Else?


Why is my tongue itchy?

A common cause of an itchy tongue is Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), also known as Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS). OAS is caused by cross-reactivity between certain fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts with pollens. People with pollen allergies can get an itchy mouth when eating foods with similar proteins to the pollen they are allergic to.

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You’re going about your day when out of nowhere, you feel an odd sensation on your tongue. It’s itchy. And you can’t seem to itch it enough to relieve the symptoms. Though the cause of your scratchy tongue may not be evident at first, the likely culprit is an oral allergy. Although oral allergies are different from allergic reactions, they both can result from foods.

What Is Oral Allergy Syndrome?

Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS), also known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), is caused by inhaling pollen or eating raw fruits, vegetables, and certain tree nuts. Proteins in these foods mimic allergenic proteins found in ragweed, pollen, and other seasonal allergens. These proteins trigger an allergic response that creates a minor swelling of the tongue and lips or an itchy throat, tongue, or roof of the mouth.

You don’t need to avoid these foods. Since heat destroys the itch-causing proteins, cooking these foods eliminates symptoms and stops that scratchy tongue feeling. If you think you may have OAS, start a food diary to track what you eat and when you have allergic reactions. This diary can help you pinpoint the specific foods causing your symptoms.

Common Oral Allergy Syndrome Triggers

People react to foods differently, and, therefore, there are a variety of foods that can trigger OAS. Some of the most common include:

  • Fruits like bananas, cherries, oranges, apples, and peaches
  • Vegetables including tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and carrots
  • Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds
  • Fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley
Oral Allergy Syndrome Pollen and Food Cross-Reactivity Chart

Is My Scratchy Tongue Caused by Food Allergies?

Oral allergies are not the same as food allergies. A food allergy affects other areas of your body, including your skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. Oral allergies are localized to your mouth, and the symptoms are often mild and resolve quickly.

In rare circumstances, food and severe oral allergies can trigger anaphylaxis. A dangerous, life-threatening reaction, anaphylaxis causes hives, trouble breathing, swelling, and rapid heartbeat. If you experience any of these symptoms, even if the trigger isn’t clear, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

In cases where soy, peanuts, almonds, or hazelnuts cause your itchy, scratchy tongue, a mild reaction can turn severe. If eating these foods gives you symptoms, it’s best to speak with an allergist to discuss diet, treatment, and options.

If It’s Not Allergies, What’s Causing My Itchy Tongue?

When food doesn’t seem to be causing the issue, there may be other problems causing your tongue to itch, including:

  • Thrush: Thrush is a yeast infection that develops in your oral cavity. Symptoms include mouth pain, dryness, and white patches on the inside of your cheeks or on your tongue. Thrush requires prescription antifungal medications and a special mouthwash. If you think your oral discomfort is related to thrust, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Cold sores: Cold sores usually form around your mouth or on your lips. Right before one appears, some people experience an itchy, tingling feeling in their mouth or tongue. Cold sores usually resolve on their own, but there are over-the-counter ointments that speed healing. If sores last longer than two weeks, contact your doctor.
  • Dental Issues: Inflammation or infection in the gums and teeth can cause an itchy tongue. If pain accompanies your scratchy tongue, such as tooth pain or pain in other parts of the mouth, check with your dentist, as a dental issue may be the problem.
  • Dry mouth: Dry mouth can result from auto-immune conditions and the side effects of various medications. Without moisture, your tongue can feel itchy or even burn. Drink plenty of water, and talk to your physician or dentist about your dry mouth to see if a saliva substitute is right for you.
  • Viral infection: Other viral infections, such as Herpes and Chickenpox, can cause your tongue to itch. If you notice any sores or open areas around your lips, talk to your doctor and avoid sharing any drinking or eating utensils until you know the cause.

How Do I Treat Tongue Itchiness and Oral Allergies?

Treat oral allergies by avoiding trigger foods or cooking them before eating. If a certain food is causing you problems, don’t feel discouraged. There are still fruits and vegetables you can enjoy that may not trigger a response.

Another treatment for tongue itchiness is antihistamines. These medications block the release of histamine, the molecule behind your allergy symptoms. Many people take antihistamines to help with seasonal allergies, but these medications also relieve itchy tongue or mouth. You can safely and regularly use these medications, although, in some patients, they cause drowsiness or affect sleep quality.

Allergy sufferers looking for long-lasting relief turn to immunotherapy. Immunotherapy exposes your body to small doses of the allergen causing you problems. Over time, your body becomes desensitized to your allergies and stops reacting. For many, this treatment offers complete freedom from allergies with no need to carry around pills.

What’s the Best Antihistamine for an Itchy Tongue?

There are several antihistamine options to treat an itchy tongue. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is a common choice known to be effective for treating itchiness. It can cause heavy drowsiness and is not recommended for daily use. Other antihistamine medications include cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra). All three of these can treat scratchy tongues with minimal side effects.

Can Sublingual Immunotherapy Help My Itchy Tongue?

While antihistamines can reduce the symptoms of an itchy tongue, they do nothing to address the root cause. When looking for long-lasting remission from allergies, immunotherapy is often the best choice as it addresses the underlying cause of your symptoms by making long-term changes to your immune system.

At Wyndly, getting started with sublingual immunotherapy is simple. We send you an at-home allergy testing kit to identify what you are allergic to. After a quick finger-prick, you return your sample. Our doctors create your individual allergy profile and develop a personalized treatment plan to get you a living free from allergies (and itchy tongues)!

Find an Easy, Long-Term Allergy Solution!

If you are looking for long-term relief from your oral allergies and allergy symptoms, Wyndly might be right for you. Take our two-minute assessment today to see if you are a candidate and get one step closer to living allergy-free!

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