TongueFilter: Why does my tongue burn so easily?
February 16, 2007 6:15 PM   Subscribe

TongueFilter: Why does my tongue burn so easily?

It's possible that my tongue was always this sensitive, but I've only really realized its peculiarity in recent years.

An easy, tested example is coffee:

The supposed "sweet spot" for cappuccino is between 150–170˚F, which I use as guided wisdom when frothing milk for friends, but I stop steaming my own around 130, and even then must wait a minute or two, or be careful to slurp slowly, before indulging. 130ish has burnt me before.

I, envious, watch strangers sip their ordered coffees immediately after they're served; my tongue cringes with muscle memory when I see others drink right after the pot brews; and me? I sit 5–10 minutes, sometimes forgetting, then finding that my drink isn't even hot for my taste. And while I hear that volatile espresso is best soon after it falls into its little cup, I have to wait and wonder just how much better it tasted minutes ago.

This is an annoyance, I suppose, more than anything else. When I cook, I can't (safely) taste to adjust the seasoning, and if I am impatient and try my soup, I can end up blisterfully regretting it for days.

Is my tongue as sensitive as I think it is? Is there anything I can do to better brace the heat?
posted by stance to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Your tongue sounds slightly more sensitive to hot temperatures than mine, however the rest of my mouth is probably even more sensitive. Semi-hot food that hits the roof of my mouth or the insides of my cheeks or my gums pretty much instantly causes the first layer of skin to slough off and the spot stays slick and a little painful for days while it heals. I'm hoping to see something here that might explain my situation as well.
posted by xiojason at 6:34 PM on February 16, 2007


Is it possible that you have Geographic Tongue? "Geographic tongue can cause tongue discomfort and increased sensitivity to hot or spicy foods."
posted by amyms at 6:50 PM on February 16, 2007


Is there anything I can do to better brace the heat?

Ok, this will probably sound odd, but I find that making sure my tongue/ lips/ roof of my mouth are moist with saliva before trying hot foods or liquids makes a huge difference in whether I get burned or not.
posted by platinum at 6:57 PM on February 16, 2007


I can't contribute anything to this discussion other than to say "me too". My wife is done with her hot beverages before I can even take a sip. At least in my case, it's doesn't appear to be "Geographic Tongue" -- as with xiojason, drinks and food that are at all hot (oh! don't get me started on pizza cheese) cause actual tissue damage, not just "discomfort". Over time I've just learned to live with it, but hopefully someone else has an answer for you (and by extension, me!)
posted by harkin banks at 7:01 PM on February 16, 2007


Is it possible that you have Geographic Tongue?

I don't think so. I love spicy foods and find they cause no irritation. The only white-bordered, geographic appearance my tongue gets is when blisters show up after a burn.

Ok, this will probably sound odd, but I find that making sure my tongue/ lips/ roof of my mouth are moist with saliva before trying hot foods or liquids makes a huge difference in whether I get burned or not.

Thanks! I'll have to try this tomorrow morning.

xiojason, harkin banks: My girlfriend suggests we all start a support group.
posted by stance at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2007


Drinking hot coffee is sort of a learned skill. You have to sip it in tiny amounts while inhaling a lot of air. The coffee that is coming into your mouth will be rapidly cooled at the last second by all the air rushing past it.

I am not suggesting that your tongue isn't more sensitive than others', but I have experience burning my tongue with hot coffee if I just pour it in. On the other hand, if I apply the technique described above, I escape unharmed.
posted by qvtqht at 7:42 PM on February 16, 2007


I'm sorry, I've got nothing to add except to ask if I may join the support group? The first thing I do when I buy my cuppa is to open that plastic lid and let it sit until it's nice and tepid.

I've always watched with amazement the people who can dig into their bowl of searing hot ramen without a blink of an eye, when I have to wait until they're practically finished before I can start on mine. In other words, I always keep my husband waiting.

There's actually a word for this in Japanese: neko-jita. Literal translation: cat tongue. And I've also wondered if this is something you're born with, or if it's something acquired. And I will be trying out platinum's advice, too.
posted by misozaki at 7:46 PM on February 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


xiojason, harkin banks, stance: I want in. When's the meeting?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:55 PM on February 16, 2007


i'll add to the chorus of "me too"s. i always figured it was, like platinum suggested, just a learned skill i never acquired. i didn't grow up drinking hot beverages or eating soups, and these are still problematic for me. for some reason non-liquids don't have same effect, although, for instance, melted cheese does do a number on the roof of my mouth, if not handled correctly.
posted by wreckingball at 9:22 PM on February 16, 2007


another 'me too' here... I definitely notice it with hot fluids like coffee and hot chocolate, but not as much with hot foods.

thanks for that tip, platinum... I'll have to try that. The things you learn every day (geographic tongue - I had no idea...)
posted by rmm at 11:52 PM on February 16, 2007


Another big "Me Too." This has annoyed me since childhood! I love coffee/tea/cocoa but by the time I'm ready to drink mine, I and everybody I'm with has finished our meals!

We should start a club...
posted by Alabaster at 2:27 AM on February 17, 2007


Me too, too!

My wife thinks it's a personal failing that I can't drink coffee when it's served, but five minutes after everyone else. It's not just my tongue -- it's the roof of my mouth and my lips.

My counteraction (at home - not so much in public) is to slurp lots of air, so the liquid leaps right over my lips, and gets significantly cooled on the way in. This also gets marked down as a personal failing!
posted by blue_wardrobe at 5:26 AM on February 17, 2007


I also have neko-jita! It's just not worth eating something hot if it swells your mouth or tongue.

There is a spot just on the left side of the roof of my mouth which swells immediately after something is too hot for me - regardless if everyone I'm with is eating the same thing (and has probably finished already).

It's a pretty common thing here though (in Japan) so I wouldn't stress about it.
posted by gomichild at 5:53 AM on February 17, 2007


Sensitivity to heat (and bitter tastes) is the reason I put so much half-and-half in my coffee. At least adding a large amount of refrigerated liquid means I can drink it right away.
posted by timepiece at 8:37 AM on February 17, 2007


I do this too, but I just put ice in my coffee.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:44 AM on February 17, 2007


Same here; I‘ve gotta wait til all my drinks, soups, cereals, pizzas, etc., are luke-warm. And when I was a kid, I couldn’t drink carbonated drinks, either; the bubbles hurt my mouth. And before that, believe it or not, I didn’t like bananas because of the seeds. Over that one, fortunately.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2007


Excuse me for not having a citation, but my understanding is that a lifetime of drinking piping-hot drinks increases your risk of mouth/tongue/throat cancer. Perhaps you don't have a problem, but are actually highly evolved to avoid cancer?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:58 PM on February 17, 2007


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