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Glossitis in Children: Care Instructions

Anatomy of the mouth


Glossitis is swelling of the tongue. The tongue looks smooth and may be an unusual colour 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.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child a bland or liquid diet while they have glossitis. Bland foods include mashed potatoes, soft breads, cream soups, eggs, and soft, 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 child's mouth with a mixture of a half-teaspoon (2.5 mL) of baking soda in 1 cup (250 mL) of warm water.
  • Floss your child's teeth every day. Help your child brush their teeth at least two times a day. Help your child clean their tongue at the same time.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has trouble speaking, chewing, or swallowing.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.