Causes Of Strawberry Tongue: Symptoms And Treatment Options

Human tongue is an important muscular organ which has many roles to play. It is an organ of speech, besides helping in many other functions such as swallowing etc. A normal tongue is pink in appearance with thin layer of taste buds. Often it is said that the tongue is mirror of your stomach. It is rightly said so, because the color and appearance of tongue can become abnormal in stomach and other health disorders. In fact all physicians examine the appearance of tongue when they see a patient.

Change in color and texture of tongue is an important sign for diagnosing many diseases.

When your tongue turns fiery red with enlarged visible taste buds on its surface, many call it as strawberry tongue. The color change from pink to fiery red is commonly observed in children. However, adults too can have red and sore tongue due to different causes. To get rid of strawberry tongue, the aim is to treat the underlying health problem.

What Diseases Cause Strawberry Tongue?

Several health conditions can cause the tongue to appear like strawberry with red and enlarged taste buds. It is predominantly seen in children and toddlers, but it can be present in adults too.

Some of the conditions presenting with strawberry tongue are:

  • Measles: Measles is viral infection in children characterized by cough, running nose, fever, distinctive rash with a classical red strawberry tongue. It is a self limiting disease and usually requires symptomatic treatment.
  • Vitamin deficiency: Deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid is known to cause red strawberry tongue. Deficiency of these vitamins can lead to anemia. These patients are at risk of suffering from many other health problems. Patient may need to take supplements to replenish the deficiency.
  • Scarlet fever: It is caused by streptococcal infection in the throat. The disease can become serious if not treated on time. Children are more prone to scarlet fever. Therefore with unusual red tongue, difficulty in swallowing and fever, the child should be consulted to a pediatrician.
  • Strawberry tongue is one of the leading sign in Kawasaki disease. This syndrome affects infants and young children. The blood vessels are affected. It is characterized by redness in palms and soles, red rash, strawberry tongue, and inflamed lymph nodes.
  • Geographic tongue is a benign condition. The tongue appears like a map with thick white coating on certain part with redness and enlarged taste buds in certain areas. The appearance mimics like a map, therefore it is called geographic tongue.

Symptoms Of Strawberry Tongue

Many other symptoms can accompany strawberry tongue. Symptoms depend on the underlying condition responsible for it.

  • For example, in case of scarlet fever, patient has high fever, throat pain, rashes on body, together with fiery red mouth and appearance of strawberry tongue.
  • In Kawasaki disease, red and inflamed tongue is associated with other symptoms such as fever, enlarged lymph nodes in neck, rash of abdomen, red palm and sole, congested eyes, etc.
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12 and Folic acid may have other symptoms such as weakness, rapid breathing, stomach upsets, diarrhea, pale skin and swollen red tongue with enlarged taste buds.

Treatment Options For Strawberry Tongue

Since strawberry tongue is a sign of a disease or an underlying health disorder, the aim is to treat the condition rather than just focus on strawberry tongue.

  • Antibiotics are the choice of treatment for scarlet fever. Prompt detection and administration of antibiotics will help in alleviating symptoms of scarlet fever along with strawberry tongue. With early administration of antibiotics, the chances of complications such as rheumatic fever become far less.
  • Kawasaki disease is self limited disease. However, medical fraternity advocates use of aspirin and immunoglobulin therapy to reduce inflammation.
  • In case of vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency, adequate intake of food consisting these vitamins and supplements will help in healing all symptoms including strawberry tongue.