Do you have red spots on your tongue? Almost anyone can have these spots on the tongue, which is generally harmless. However, it’s still important to see your doctor, especially if the spots become worse or painful. In this article, we’ll discuss the different causes and treatments of red spots on tongue.
The tongue gives important clues regarding our health. Eastern medicine doctors believe that the tongue has a special connection with the heart and is a reflection of the body’s internal balance. On the other hand, Western medicine doctors acknowledge the role of the tongue in determining local and systemic diseases.
Here are some of the possible causes of red bumps on tongue based on Western medicine and Eastern medicine perspectives.
- 1 Red Spots On Tongue
- 2 Eastern Medicine Causes
- 3 Western Medicine Causes
- 4 How To Treat Red Spots on Tongue?
Red Spots On Tongue
Eastern Medicine Causes
In traditional Chinese medicine, red spots on the tongue mean there’s Heat, which produces toxins that could attack the heart. The concept of Heat is similar to Western Medicine’s concept of infection, fever, or inflammation. The presence of Heat could be due to yin deficiency or excess of yang, which boosts heat.
Tongue red spots could also be an indication of Damp-Heat, which happens when dampness combines with heat in the blood level (or Xue level). This causes a buildup of toxins in your internal body organs.
Immune System Response
In Chinese herbal medicine, red spots on the tongue could indicate that a person may be experiencing an allergic reaction due to an underlying health condition, like asthma and skin inflammation (eczema). Children could have red spots on the tongue if they have infection, while adults could have them due to anxiety and sleeping difficulties.
Other possible causes of red bumps on tongue:
- Red spots on the tip of the tongue, which is the heart and lungs area, indicate a mild illness.
- If they’re on the backside of the tongue, the kidney area, they could mean there’s a disease that’s chronic or in its advanced stage.
- Red spots at the sides or all over the tongue (liver and gallbladder region) could indicate a more severe form of disease.
Western Medicine Causes
Scarlet fever is a contagious bacterial infection caused by Group-A streptococcus bacteria. This infection is common among children, especially those who have recently developed impetigo (contagious skin infection) or strep throat.
Symptoms of scarlet fever generally take up to five days to show up. Its most distinctive symptom is a pink-red rash, which happens when the disease-causing bacteria releases toxins. Sufferers could also develop a pale tongue covered by red spots, which has given this symptom the name raspberry tongue or strawberry tongue.
Other common symptoms of scarlet fever are facial flushing, throat soreness, fever (38.3°Cor 101°F), and headache.
Deficiencies in vitamin B12 and folic acid (vitamin B9) could result in red spots. B vitamins are usually present in most foods, so it’s uncommon for a person to develop a deficiency of this vitamin. However, it’s another story for folic acid, which is a water-soluble vitamin. We remove it from our body everyday, so we need to replace a lost folic acid to avoid deficiency problems.
Kawasaki disease is an autoimmune disease (where the body attacks and destroys its own healthy tissues) that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, including those of the heart. There’s no exact cause of this condition. However, it’s common among Japanese and Korean children under five years old. Boys are 1.5 times more likely to develop this compared to girls. 
Early phase signs and symptoms of Kawasaki disease:
- Strawberry tongue
- Red and dry lips
- Inflamed neck glands
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes) without discharges
- Fever (more than 39°C or 102.2°F) that’s five days or more
- Red and swollen skin on the palms and soles of the feet
Kawasaki disease is rare and usually has a good prognosis if the right treatments are given. However, there’s still a chance that it could cause death in a small percentage of sufferers due to heart complications. More specifically, the inflammation of major heart blood vessels may lead to aneurysm, which affects around 25% of individuals who don’t get proper treatment. 
Benign Migratory Glossitis
Benign migratory glossitis is also clled as geographic tongue and erythema migrans. This harmless, non-cancerous condition has a striking map-like pattern of reddish spots that form on the upper surface and sides of the tongue. In some instances, the red patches may have a white edge around them. The appearance could vary from person to person and could change eventually.
Anyone can develop this condition. However, it’s more likely to affect older adults. It’s more common in women than in men. There’s no known cause for benign migratory glossitis, but it could be due to vitamin B deficiency, genetics, or mouth irritation due to spicy foods and alcoholic beverages.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease is an infectious condition that spreads from person to person or by touching poop-contaminated objects or surfaces. The common culprit for this disease is the enterovirus (coxsackievirus) family, which lives in the guts. Children age one to four are at higher risk of developing hand, foot and mouth disease.
Symptoms usually start to develop between three and five days after a person’s initial exposure to the virus. Early symptoms include:
- Red spots on the mouth, tonsils, throat, and tongue
- High fever (104°F or 39°C)
- Poor appetite
- Sore throat
Asthma sufferers may also have red spots on the tongue. They usually appear because of inflammation of the lungs or respiratory system allergic reactions. Since there’s no complete cure for asthma, the best way to prevent it is to avoid triggers and by using an inhaler.
How To Treat Red Spots on Tongue?
Effective treatment of this condition depends on the correct diagnosis of the underlying health problem. Make sure to get in touch with your doctor first before trying any home treatments.
Fortify your meals with B vitamins (vitamin B12 and folic acid)
If you think you’re deficient of vitamin B12 or folic acid, consult with your doctor as soon as you can. Folate deficiency is uncommon in North America because of the availability of food supplementation programs and folic acid-fortified foods. On the other hand, B12 deficiency is more common among vegans and people who have undergone a weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery).
You can’t get vitamin B12 from plant-based foods. Since your body doesn’t produce or store B12, you need to get it daily from animal food sources or dietary supplements. For serious cases, your doctor may either give you weekly B12 shots or recommend high doses of oral B12.
The great thing about folic acid is it’s easily absorbed by the body, so a change in your diet is often enough to correct any deficiency. Examples of folic acid foods are turnips, liver, whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, sprouts, oranges, wheat germ, and asparagus.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages because it interferes with folic acid absorption.
- Take an inventory of the medicines you’re currently taking. Dilantin, primidone, and phenobarbitol cause folic acid deficiency.
Use over-the-counter medicines and natural remedies to ease pain and fever
You can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen if your tongue is painful and swollen. Just make sure not to give aspirin to teens or kids because it could cause Reye syndrome. As an alternative, you can give children popsicles, ice cream, and other cold foods to numb their tongue temporarily.
Saltwater Gargle Recipe:
- 8 ounces of warm water
- ½ teaspoon of table salt or sea salt, which is more preferable because it contains magnesium that has potent anti-inflammatory activities 
Combine everything then stir until the salt has dissolved completely. Swish in the mouth for 3o to 60 seconds then spit it out.
Aloe Vera Mouthwash Recipe
- 5 ounces of aloe vera juice – Aloe vera contains glycoproteins, which can ease the pain and inflammation. 
- 3 ounces of distilled water
- 4 drops of tea tree oil
- 2 teaspoons of coconut oil
Pour the aloe vera juice, coconut oil, and distilled water in a dark-tinted glass bottle. Then add tea tree oil one drop at a time and stir to mix all the ingredients together.
- 20 ounces of water
- 3 large young guava leaves
- A pinch of table salt
Clean the guava leaves before boiling in 20 ounces of water for 5 to 10 minutes. After the infusion has cooled down, add the salt then strain it. Use this guava mouthwash twice to thrice daily.
Fight infections using prescription and natural antibiotics
If the red spots on your tongue are due to scarlet fever, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics to decrease infectiousness, shorten the duration, and prevent other complications associated with streptococcal infection. Unless your condition is serious, scarlet fever is generally manageable at home.
Try taking natural remedies with germ-fighting abilities, including the following:
- Honey (for sore throat) – The rule of thumb is the darker the color, the stronger its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Its ability to fight off antibiotic-resistant germs, including those in the streptococcus family, is due to its hydrogen peroxide content, low pH level, and high sugar content. 
- Probiotic foods – One example is plain yogurt. Probiotic foods can help treat different diseases caused by Group-A streptococcus bacteria, like tonsillitis and sore throat. 
Treat canker sores before they become worse
Canker sores generally start as red spots or bumps. Before they appear, you may experience a tingling or burning sensation. To prevent or ease the symptoms of canker sores, including tongue red spots, use the following home remedies:
- Manage your stress levels properly. Stress seems to influence the development of canker sores. Identify stress reduction techniques that best work for you, such as breathing techniques, listening to soothing music, and laughing.
- Avoid eating foods or drinking beverages that could irritate your tongue. Examples are alcoholic beverages, hot drinks, spicy foods, citrus fruits, chips, salty foods, and other foods you’re allergic to.
- Ease inflammation and swelling by rinsing with 1 teaspoon of table salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water. Alternatively, WebMD recommends dissolving 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 4 ounces of warm water.
- Steep one chamomile tea bag then freeze it for 10 minutes. Apply the cool tea bag on the affected area of your tongue for 10 minutes or until the pain is gone (if present). Do this procedure up to four times daily. Chamomile is an effective anti-inflammatory agent because it contains flavonoids.
- Modify your diet to include healthy foods, including foods that are rich in B vitamins and antioxidants, to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Make hand-washing a habit in your home
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that could cause diseases, like scarlet fever and hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease, is to wash your hands frequently. Encourage your family to wash their hands after every trip to the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, and after changing a diaper.
Other preventive tips:
- If you have a cough or going to sneeze, make sure to cover your mouth and nose.
- Minimize your exposure to sick individuals.
- Infectious agents that cause tongue red spots live for days on certain surfaces or objects. Make sure to clean your home regularly, including your children’s toys, with disinfectant to kill most of the disease-causing germs.
Generally, red spots on the tongue are not dangerous. However, it’s not also right to ignore them. Visit your doctor to determine the exact cause and receive the appropriate treatments.
Have you ever had red dots on your tongue? How were you able to get rid of them? Don’t forget to share your thoughts and effective home remedies in the comments section below. I’d love to hear them!