itchy mouth

Oral health problems often present with a wide range of symptoms. The itchy mouth is a common but an alarming symptom experienced by many people. Itching is a sudden and uncomfortable feeling, especially around the sensitive mucosal areas of the mouth. Typically, it can be caused by several factors. Some of them include viral or fungal infections, ulcerations, and allergic reactions to pollen, latex, and medications.

Often, itching caused by an allergic response is referred to as oral allergy syndrome. The itchy mouth is usually mild and treatable. However, some severe cases may be life-threatening. Some of the common characteristics of the itchy mouth include burning sensation, tingling, crawling sensation, cough, and sore throat.

Treatment depends on the type of cause. Some of the procedures of the itchy mouth include the use of antihistamines to treat allergic reactions, medications specific to the kind of oral infection, and epinephrine for the acute anaphylactic attack. Today’s article will highlight the characteristics of itchy mouth. Furthermore, we will discuss the causes and treatment of this common oral condition.

What are the characteristics of itchy mouth?

The itchy mouth can present with a wide range of symptoms. Some of them include –

  • Tingling sensation in the mouth, tongue, and throat (1)
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Swollen lips, tongue or even throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing and watery eyes
  • Dry cough
  • Crawling sensation in one or both the ear canals

What causes itchy mouth?

Many factors can contribute to itching sensation in the mouth. Some of them include –

Allergic reactions

Oral allergy syndrome is a common condition that causes itchy mouth as a result of an allergy to pollen or a specific food. These conditions typically begin during the teenage and adult years of life. Some of the food items that may lead to oral allergy syndrome include –

  • Types of pollen like grasses, birch, mugwort, and ragweed
  • Raw vegetables and uncooked fruits or spices
  • Nuts

Usually, the symptoms in this situation do not last for more than 20 minutes. However, in severe cases such as anaphylaxis, it may lead to a medical emergency. (2)

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic response that requires immediate medical attention. Often the symptoms of anaphylaxis include itching, swelling, and redness around the mouth due to exposure to an allergen. Some of the common factors that can cause anaphylaxis are –

  • Medications
  • Foods
  • Latex
  • Bee or wasp venom

Some typical characteristics of anaphylaxis include –

  • Rash and watery eyes
  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Tightness around the throat (3)
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hoarseness of the voice
  • Cardiac arrest

Cold sores

Cold sores are characterized as fever blisters that form around the outside of the mouth and lips. These lesions are commonly caused by herpes simplex virus infection, which makes them highly contagious. Often cold sores develop in clusters of blisters.

Most people experience itching or burning sensation around the mouth even before the development of cold sores. The fluid-filled blisters eventually break and create an ulcer or sore that may take up to two weeks to heal. (4)

Oral thrush

Fungal infection from Candida albicans can also lead to itchy mouth. Usually, oral thrush appears as a thick white layer on the oral tissues, which can be scrapped quickly from the surface. Often, the corners of the mouth crack and form sores. Other symptoms include –

  • Burning sensation of the mouth
  • Redness and bleeding on scraping the lesion
  • Dry mouth
  • Taste alteration

What is the treatment for the itchy mouth?

Treatment of itchy mouth usually depends on the type of underlying cause. Some of the treatment options available for itch mouth are listed below –

  • Antihistamines are used to treat mild allergic reactions that do not go away on their own within a few minutes.
  • Severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis may be treated with epinephrine. Often people with a history of allergic reactions travel with a portable epinephrine auto-injector that can be used during an emergency. (5)
  • Cold sores are often treated with oral medications or topical treatments. Some medicines like acyclovir, penciclovir, and famciclovir are used to manage the viral infection.
  • A range of antifungal treatments is used to treat yeast infections caused by Candida albicans. It can be administered in the form of tablets, lozenges, and mouthwash.

How can you prevent itchy mouth?

Prevention of itchy mouth is always in the best interest of the patient –

  • Avoid foods that you are allergic to
  • Cook fruits and vegetables properly before eating
  • Avoid certain medications that cause itchy mouth
  • Follow every instruction recommended by the doctor for treating cold sores and oral thrush

Take away message

The itchy mouth is a common symptom that can occur in several oral conditions. Some of the common causes of the itchy mouth include allergic reactions to certain medications, food, pollen, and raw vegetables.

Additionally, oral infections like herpes simplex and oral thrush may also contribute to itching sensation in the mouth. Although these are mild cases of itchy mouth, in severe cases, it can lead to anaphylaxis – a life-threatening condition that requires immediate care. Some typical characteristics of the itchy mouth include burning or tingling sensation, swelling of the tongue, lips, and mouth. Moreover, the patient may also experience watery eyes and dry mouth.

Treatment usually depends on the type of cause. It includes medication therapy to treat several oral infections and allergic reactions. Anaphylactic reactions are treated with epinephrine. It is essential always to follow the doctor’s instructions and stay healthy.