'Covid Tongue' Is the Strange, Under-the-Radar Symptom You Need to Know About
Over the past year, we've learned about some of the more unusual ways that Covid can manifest, whether it's skin rashes and 'COVID toes' or hair loss. Now you can add 'COVID tongue' to that list. Yep, in addition to loss of taste, which is listed as one of the 11 official symptoms by the CDC, experts are now warning that swelling of the tongue and strange mouth ulcers should be on your radar, too.
According to a research letter published in the British Journal of Dermatology, 25% of Covid patients studied by doctors at the peak of the pandemic in Spain had symptoms in their mouth. These “oral cavity findings" included inflammation of the small bumps on the tongue's surface, swollen and inflamed tongue with indentations on the side, mouth ulcers, and "patchy" areas on the tongue.
So, why has 'COVID tongue' flown so under the radar for nearly a year? Well, most physicians are more focused on the heart and lungs and "pass on examining the mouth because it can increase their risk of getting infected," Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York tells Health. In other words, it's hard to know how many people have really experienced sore, swollen, or bumpy tongues as a result of COVID.
The good news is that you probably don't need to overly stress out about your tongue's appearance and spiral into a Google image search frenzy. First of all, these tongue symptoms aren't specific to COVID, so it could be the result of any number of viruses, or it could simply be irritation from something you ate, Dr. Russo added. Plus, docs say it's unlikely that tongue inflammation or bumps would be your only coronavirus symptom — you'd likely also experience some of the hallmark respiratory symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, or loss of taste and smell that would tip you off first.
Bottom line: The existence of 'COVID tongue' is definitely validating for those who experienced the symptom and tested positive for the virus without knowing this was a real thing, but a slightly funky-looking tongue isn't something to overly panic about if you don't have any other symptoms or reason to believe you've been exposed to the illness.
So with that, you can take a deep breath and close your front-facing camera.
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