‘COVID Tongue’ May Last for Over a Year, 3 Ways to Treat It

Food still doesn’t taste right, even months after your bout with COVID? You may have lingering traces of COVID-19 on your tongue, new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reveals.

The virus can remain in parts of the tongue containing our taste buds, disrupting the formation and regeneration of new taste buds for up to 63 weeks after an acute infection.

Post-COVID Rashes, Bumps, Discoloration? Blame ‘COVID Tongue’

Of all the COVID symptoms reported during the pandemic, perhaps the strangest is “COVID tongue,” an infection-related rash or inflammation affecting the mouth and tongue. In some cases, the tongue may appear swollen and discolored. The rash can manifest in various forms, from small, flat, red or purple spots to large, raised bumps.

While the exact cause is unknown, medical experts believe COVID tongue likely stems from the body’s immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

The new study examined this phenomenon by performing biopsies of the tongue’s fungiform papillae, structures on the tongue’s surface that contain taste buds, in 16 patients with taste disturbance lasting over six weeks post-COVID infection. Biopsies from pre-2020 served as controls. Researchers did follow-up biopsies of 10 patients with impaired taste after six or more months.

The findings showed clear evidence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. An immune reaction to it was observed, along with misshapen or absent taste buds and lost nerve fibers in the tongue.

Six months postinfection, six of the 10 patients reported normal taste perception. The rest saw random elimination of tongue infection, including 45 and even 63 weeks after a positive PCR test. Four still had incomplete taste recovery at the time of the report’s release on July 20, 2023.

These findings suggest the COVID-19 virus can alter the production of taste buds and directly affect the nervous system, as taste buds are hardwired to the brain via specialized sensory neurons.

COVID Tongue Can Cause ‘Weird and Bizarre’ Taste Sensations: Expert

Dr. Thomas Gut, director of the Post-COVID Recovery Center at Northwell Staten Island University Hospital, told The Epoch Times that COVID infection can affect the tongue’s taste receptors directly by causing local destruction and causing inflammation that can interfere with taste sensation.

“This can lead to total or partial loss of taste or even weird and bizarre taste sensations,” he said.

The sense of taste is a complex process involving multiple organs. While the tongue is involved in tasting food, our sense of smell, which COVID can impair, also plays a significant role.

“Our sense of smell helps fill in gaps in flavors and odors,” Dr. Gut said. “Without smell, the tongue has a more difficult time decoding flavors, and eating experience is altered.”

There is no significant evidence suggesting the duration of viral presence on the tongue affects the likelihood of COVID reinfection, according to Dr. Gut.

“The strongest predictor [of reinfection] thus far has been how recently a person has either been infected or been immunized,” he said. “People with recent COVID infections or a recent booster are unlikely to catch COVID soon.”

COVID Tongue Can Be Treated

There are several available treatment options for COVID tongue, which can help alleviate symptoms:

  1. Maintain oral hygiene: The most crucial thing you can do to prevent or alleviate COVID tongue is to practice proper oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss, and rinse your mouth regularly with mouthwash.
  2. Use oral gels: For people experiencing tongue pain, regular use of an oral gel with pain-relieving properties like benzocaine may provide relief.
  3. Use over-the-counter drugs: Over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen, may assist in reducing any pain or inflammation in the mouth. However, it’s essential to understand that it won’t clear COVID from your tongue.

Make sure to consult with your doctor before taking any medication, and if your symptoms persist or worsen, seek further medical advice from your health care provider.

Reposted from: https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/cant-kick-covid-taste-loss-virus-may-linger-in-tongue-for-over-a-year-study-5429644

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