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Life Hacks

Bumpy Tongue from Too Hot Coffee? This DIY Remedy Will Heal the Hurt and Make It Feel Less Weird

So you can get back to your coffee ASAP.


A steaming hot cup of coffee is more than just something I enjoy every morning — it’s a necessity. Without it, waking up seems impossible. But because it’s also delicious, I’m often eager to sip it as soon as it hits my mug; and unfortunately, that often leads to a burnt tongue. Burning your tongue doesn’t just hurt in the moment, it also temporarily weakens your sense of taste and makes your tongue sensitive for the next day or two, serving as a constant reminder of your foolish haste. (Talk about adding insult to injury.) Luckily, there are several ways to soothe a burned tongue fast, so you can get back to sipping. Still, maybe you should just let your mug cool for a minute next time!

Why does a burned tongue feel so weird? 

Burning any part of your body hurts. When you burn your tongue, however, it hurts, feels sensitive, and affects your sense of taste. What gives? Food and drinks that are too hot can actually burn off the top layer of your taste buds, as explained in this video from Seeker. This isn’t ultimately urgent, since taste buds regenerate constantly — but it does leave you feeling uncomfortable and tasteless for a few days.

And while a few days can feel like forever when you can’t taste food so well, it’s realistically pretty quick when it comes to burn healing. Luckily, wounds in your mouth heal up to twice as fast as wounds on other parts of your body; from an evolutionary perspective, that’s because taste is an important mechanism for avoiding dangerous substances. While tongue burns are usually first degree — the least serious of the three burn levels — Seeker says you should go to the doctor immediately if you see blistering or charred tissue. 

How To Soothe A Burned Tongue

A mild tongue burn should heal itself in a few days, but there are things you can do in the meantime to reduce discomfort. Check out these five tips from the pros at Almond Dental.

  1. Put honey on your tongue. Honey’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties may help ease the pain of your burn. Hold a teaspoon of it on your tongue as long as you can, swallowing when it becomes difficult to hold. Repeat twice. 
  2. Use aloe vera. Aloe vera is an all-star when it comes to making burns feel better, and tongue burns are no exception. Squeeze some gel out of the leaf of an aloe vera plant onto your burn to reduce pain. 
  3. Try some sugar. Mary Poppins was right — a spoonful of sugar really does have some medicinal properties. For this method, you won’t need a whole spoonful, though — just a sprinkle. Put a small pinch of sugar on your burn and wait for it to dissolve. This method will help take away discomfort and restore taste.
  4. Chill out. Putting something cool in your mouth like an ice cube, some ice cream, or yogurt may counteract the burning sensation and help you feel better by reducing swelling. It also increases the flow of saliva, which keeps bacteria from being stagnant. 
  5. Opt for mint. Menthol, a natural substance in mint, has numbing properties, which may take some of your pain away. Chew some mint gum for easy, quick relief. 

If natural methods don’t work, you can also use over-the-counter pain relievers or topical anesthetics. Just remember to seek professional medical help if your pain isn’t going away within a few days. 

How To Prevent Future Tongue Burns (Using Math!)

The simple way to prevent a burned tongue is to have patience — just wait for your hot food or drink to cool off before consuming. But if patience isn’t your strong suit, there’s a more technical way to avoid tongue burns: a mathematical equation that’ll tell you just how long you should wait until your coffee is a safely drinkable temperature. Sir Isaac Newton’s Law of Cooling, Popular Mechanics explains, “states that the rate of heat loss of your coffee is directly proportional to the difference in the temperature of the coffee and the room you’re in.” 

Their equation involves calculating the difference between the coffee’s temperature and that of your environment, and dividing that difference by its half-life, or the amount of time it takes for the temperature to decrease by half. For the math-minded, here’s the equation they provide: 

Q = h x A x (T(t) —Tenv) = h x A x T(t)

If you cannot make sense of this equation, don’t worry — you just have to learn to be patient until your food or beverage has cooled. Need something to keep you occupied in the meantime? Try making this lazy cinnamon roll in a mug or testing your memory with this pen-tapping challenge while you wait.

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