If you’re like most of us, you are probably wondering what the “uvula” is! The uvula, which is also referred to as the palatine uvula, is situated in the middle of the soft palate, on the back edge. In this article, we will learn about swollen uvula causes and home remedies.
- 1 About the Uvula
- 2 Causes of Uvulitis
- 2.1 Throat infection
- 2.2 Hereditary Conditions
- 2.3 Trauma
- 2.4 Severe Allergies
- 2.5 Dryness of the mouth
- 2.6 Canker sores on the uvula
- 2.7 Sleeping with your mouth open
- 2.8 Acid reflux
- 2.9 Pollutants or irritants
- 2.10 Smoking
- 2.11 Extreme food and drink temperatures
- 2.12 Common cold
- 2.13 Dehydration
- 2.14 Oral thrush
- 3 Symptoms of Swollen Uvula
- 4 Home Remedies for a Swollen Uvula
- 4.1 Salt water gargle
- 4.2 Honey and warm water
- 4.3 Onion juice
- 4.4 Garlic
- 4.5 Ice cream
- 4.6 Avoid oily food
- 4.7 Cut down on alcohol
- 4.8 Quit smoking
- 4.9 Change your sleep position
- 4.10 Plain honey
- 4.11 Turmeric
- 4.12 Apple cider vinegar and water
- 4.13 Always stay hydrated
- 4.14 Avoid straining your voice
- 4.15 Make sure your neck is protected from cold weather
- 4.16 Take antihistamines
- 4.17 Ibuprofen
- 4.18 Ice
- 4.19 Ginger
- 4.20 Herbal tea
- 4.21 Oregano oil
- 4.22 Maintain good oral hygiene practices
- 4.23 Probiotics
- 4.24 Coconut oil
- 4.25 Use a humidifier
- 4.26 Avoid being in cold rooms
- 4.27 Raspberry tea gargle
- 4.28 Turmeric and salt
- 4.29 Turmeric and milk
- 4.30 Sage
- 4.31 Horseradish and honey
- 4.32 Lime juice and honey
- 4.33 Lemon juice and honey
- 4.34 Popsicles
- 4.35 Warm (not hot) drinks
- 4.36 Steam
- 4.37 Eat more fruits and vegetables
- 4.38 Baking soda
- 4.39 Warm lemonade with honey
- 4.40 Slippery elm
- 4.41 Marshmallow root
About the Uvula
The uvula is made of soft, connective tissue, and is very vascular in nature. An epithelial layer surrounds it. The uvula helps to prevent your contracting certain illnesses by preventing microorganisms from getting into your digestive tract. If your uvula is inflamed and swollen, you have uvulitis. If your uvula is seriously infected or cancer has developed in it, it may need to be surgically removed by a doctor.
Uvulitis (swollen uvula) can develop in people of all ages.
Causes of Uvulitis
In this section, we will discuss various causes of uvulitis (swollen uvula).
If you have a general bacterial or viral throat infection, your uvula may become swollen. This can be more likely to happen with strep throats, as well as infections that cause epiglottitis, tonsillitis, and mononucleosis.
Your genes may cause you to have an enlarged uvula, elongated uvula, or an uvula that is abnormal in some other way. An enlarged uvula can also be caused by a cleft palate/lip. If you have an enlarged or elongated uvula, and it causes problems, your doctor might have to remove it surgically.
Hereditary Angioneurotic Edema (HANE) is believed to be genetic. It is a rare condition that leads to swelling of many different parts of the body.
A burn from hot food, as well as other injuries may lead to swelling of the uvula. A swollen uvula can occasionally be caused by intubation (the medical process of inserting breathing tubes), and other procedures.
Edema is swelling of the mouth and throat that comes on quickly. This condition can cause uvula swelling. If you experience edema, you are having an anaphylactic reaction caused by an allergy, which is a serious and life-threatening medical emergency. As this interferes with breathing, you will need to have an epinephrine shot at an emergency room immediately.
Dryness of the mouth
Uvulitis can be caused by dryness of the mouth. Mouth dryness happens due to various reasons, such as living in areas with low humidity, limited fluid intake, exercising, taking certain medicines (antihistamine), and mouth breathing.
Your saliva is important in preventing infection and irritation. It acts as a protective barrier and has antiseptic properties that fight off certain germs in your mouth. When you have less of it, mouth irritation and infection could happen.
Canker sores on the uvula
Canker sores, which develop on the uvula, can cause inflammation of the uvula. It’s not clear why people develop canker sores. Some of the possible causes are stress, food allergy, suppressed immune system, infections, mouth injury, and gastrointestinal problems, among others.
A canker sore on the uvula, or on other parts of the mouth, could start as white or gray in color and has a red border. It usually produces a tingling sensation at the beginning, and then becomes painful and swollen.
Sleeping with your mouth open
If you tend to sleep with your mouth open (or breathe through your mouth generally during the day) because of nasal blockage, you might develop swelling of the uvula.
How do you know if you’re a “mouth breather”? The British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association suggests this test: First, open your mouth and try to snore. Next is you close your mouth then create a snoring sound again. You’re a mouth breather if you snore only when your mouth is open.
People who have acid reflux are more likely to develop inflammation of the uvula. Acid reflux is a digestive problem that causes your stomach acid to flow back into your “food pipe” (esophagus). This irritates your throat and uvula, causing inflammation. Usually, simple lifestyle and diet changes could help control acid reflux.
Pollutants or irritants
Pollutants or irritants you have breathed in may cause inflammation of the uvula. Overused of voice, smoking, eating certain types of foods, pollen, chemical fumes, postnasal drip, smoke from your car exhaust pipe, and a dry environment are just some of the things that could irritate your uvula.
Smoking will make you much more prone to developing swelling of the uvula. Cigarettes or tobaccos contain a cancer-causing substance called nicotine. Every time you smoke, the blood vessels in your airway absorbs this harmful substance, irritating and damaging the lining of your mouth and throat.
Quitting smoking could make a big difference to your throat’s health.
Extreme food and drink temperatures
Exposing the uvula to very hot or very cold food or drinks can cause inflammation, pain, and redness. When you drink or eat something hot, make sure to let it cool first to avoid irritating your uvula and other areas of your mouth and throat.
Having the common cold can lead to swelling of the uvula. Your nose produces around one quart of mucus daily. However, when you have a cold, nasal mucus increases in volume and thickens. The excess mucus usually trickles down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), causing it to become scratchy, inflamed, and painful.
If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to develop a swollen uvula. A number of things happen with your body whenever you’re dehydrated. You experience dizziness, thirst, headaches, extreme tiredness, and dry mouth.
When your mouth (including your uvula) is dry, it’s more susceptible to irritation, inflammation, and infection.
Oral thrush is an infection caused by yeast (candida) overgrowth. People with immune systems that are depressed or compromised in some way are more likely to develop oral thrush. Antibiotics can lead to candida overgrowth. Make sure to take probiotics during and after any antibiotic treatment.
Symptoms of Swollen Uvula
Inflammation of the tonsils
Inflammation of the tonsils can be linked to a swollen uvula.
Problems with breathing
A swollen uvula can cause problems with breathing.
You may experience pain if you have a swollen uvula.
Your throat may be sore if your uvula is swollen.
Hoarseness of the voice
You may notice some hoarseness of the voice if your uvula is swollen.
Note: Remember to see your doctor right away if pus or blood is expelled from the area, if you experience choking or grunting, if you feel you are not getting enough oxygen, if you have problems with swallowing, or if you have severe pain. Make sure to receive emergency medical treatment if you have trouble breathing.
Redness and swelling
You may notice visible redness and swelling in the area.
Feeling of uvula touching tongue
You may be able to feel the uvula touching the back area of your tongue.
White spots or bumps
You may notice white spots or bumps on the uvula’s tip.
Gagging or choking feeling
You may experience a gagging or choking feeling if your uvula is very swollen.
You may find yourself drooling if your uvula is swollen.
You may also want to check out our detailed article about swollen vocal cords and how to treat this condition.
Home Remedies for a Swollen Uvula
Salt water gargle
Use a saltwater rinse (water and table salt) three or four times a day. This will help to address the inflammation and soreness. It works by drawing out the excess fluids from the tissues in your uvula to ease the swelling and pain.
To make a saltwater solution, simply dissolve ¼ teaspoon of salt in one glass of warm distilled water. You can use ordinary table salt, but sea salt is much better because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey and warm water
Mix some honey (preferably raw organic) in warm water, and drink it. You should do this several times a day. Honey has antibacterial and healing properties. It pulls out the water out of the inflamed tissue of your swollen uvula. It also acts as a protective barrier against irritants and germs.
Onion contains sulfur compounds that contain high amounts of flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants, called quercetin and anthocyanin. These compounds have antihistamine (anti-allergy) and anti-inflammatory properties.
Steps for making onion juice:
- Cut a medium-sized onion into four.
- Extract the juice using a blender, electric juicer, or plastic hand juicer.
- Drink or gargle with fresh onion juice several times a day. This will help to address the swelling in the area.
Chew garlic (two or three cloves) each day. Garlic has excellent antibacterial properties, and will help with the swelling.
Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic. It’s responsible for its strong odor, taste, and health benefits. Studies show that it eases inflammation and kills certain disease-causing germs, such as viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Chewing, chopping, or crushing garlic activates this compound. However, when you cook garlic, it could lessen the effect of allicin.
Ice cream will help to cool and soothe the throat. You should not use this remedy if you have a cold.
Avoid oily food
You should cut down the oily and fried foods in your diet, as they will worsen inflammation and irritation. Repeated heating of cooking oil causes it form acrolein, which is an irritant. So, it’s best to avoid fried or oily foods when you have a swollen uvula or cough.
Cut down on alcohol
You should avoid alcohol when dealing with a swollen uvula. If you take it in excess, alcoholic beverages could damage the tissues in your throat and mouth. That’s why it’s common for alcoholics to have different mouth and throat issues, including a swollen uvula.
Some people are allergic to alcohol, so the swelling of their uvula could be an allergic response. However, in most cases, it could be due to the dehydrating effect of alcohol.
If you are a smoker, you need to quit in order to properly address the problem of your swollen uvula. If you are having problems quitting, see your doctor for advice and/or obtain products made to help people quit at your local pharmacy (for example, nicotine gum or patches).
Change your sleep position
If you feel that your swollen uvula may be linked to a propensity for snoring, make sure that you sleep slightly elevated, and on one side. When you sleep on your back, your soft palate and tongue could collapse to the back of your throat, producing the familiar vibrating sound when you snore.
A good way to prevent snoring is to sleep on your side or by reclining your bed with your head up to open your airway passages. Here are other things you could do to prevent snoring:
- Losing the excess body fat may help, especially if you started snoring after gaining weight. The extra fat around your neck could squeeze your throat, which restricts airflow and increases the possibility for your throat to relax when you sleep.
- Don’t drink any alcoholic beverages or take sedatives five to six hours before you sleep because it makes snoring worse.
Take a hot shower before sleeping to open your airway passages. Or, if you have a stuffy nose due to a cold or flu, use a neti pot with a saltwater solution or take decongestants.
Simply swallowing teaspoons of plain honey (preferably raw organic) will help to bring down the swelling of your uvula. Honey has antibacterial, healing, and soothing properties. You can use this remedy as often as you need during the day.
Mix a little turmeric in one glass of cold water, and drink this fluid. Turmeric has antibacterial and healing properties, while the cold water will help to soothe and numb the area.
Apple cider vinegar and water
This can act as an alternative to the traditional salt water gargle. Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in one glass of warm water. You should gargle with this three times daily.
Always stay hydrated
Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the course of the day, ensuring that you drink lots of water. Also drink warm herbal teas. You will find these to be soothing to your throat.
Avoid straining your voice
Avoid straining your voice whenever possible. Using your voice too much, like when you yell, sing high notes frequently, or talk loudly for prolonged periods, could strain your throat and uvula causing pain and swelling. So, if you’re suffering from voice strain, put yourself on vocal rest. And that means no talking, yelling, throat clearing, or even whispering.
Make sure your neck is protected from cold weather
If you have to go out in cold weather, make sure to protect properly your neck with scarves and other clothing.
If your mildly swollen uvula is caused by allergies, take antihistamines.
Take over-the-counter ibuprofen to help to reduce the swelling of the area.
Chew ice during the day. This will help to numb the area and promote reduction of inflammation.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Drink some ginger herbal tea, or add ginger to other warm drinks.
Steps to making fresh ginger tea:
- Peel a medium fresh ginger, and then chop or grate it.
- Add the chopped ginger to a quart (approximately 946 ml) of water. Bring water to a boil.
- Strain into a glass and add a few drops of lemon (optional).
Herbal tea with cloves, black pepper, holy basil leaves, and ginger is very beneficial for the uvula.
Oregano oil has amazing antibacterial properties. Purchase an oregano oil that can be taken internally (check the label for information), and take the indicated dosage every day. Oregano oil is especially useful for addressing oral thrush (candida) infections.
Maintain good oral hygiene practices
Always ensure that you follow sound and consistent oral hygiene practices.
Take a daily probiotic supplement. This will be extremely helpful in dealing with oral thrush, and is generally beneficial to the immune system.
Many people feel that coconut oil helps to fight candida infections. This might be useful if you think that the swelling of your uvula is caused by candida.
Use a humidifier
Use a humidifier in your house, especially in your bedroom at night. This will help to make the air more moist and soothing.
Avoid being in cold rooms
Avoid being in cold rooms whenever possible. When you inhale cold air, it draws out moisture from your throat and mouth. This leaves your airway dry, which in turn makes your throat and uvula sore and swollen.
Raspberry tea gargle
Mix two teaspoons of dried raspberry leaves with one cup of boiling water. After this cools, strain the leaves and use the liquid as a gargle. You should use this several times a day.
Turmeric and salt
Mix half a teaspoon of salt with half a teaspoon of turmeric and use this as a gargle two times daily.
Turmeric and milk
Mix one cup of warm milk with one half a teaspoon of turmeric. Drink this daily.
Mix one cup of boiling water with one teaspoon of sage. Let the sage properly steep, and then strain it from the liquid. After that, mix in small amounts of honey and apple cider vinegar, and use this as a gargle. You should gargle with this several times a day.
Horseradish and honey
Mix together one teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon of ground cloves, and one tablespoon of horseradish or horseradish root in warm water. You should drink this every day. Make sure to drink it slowly.
Lime juice and honey
Mix lime juice with honey, and drink the solution a few times a day.
Lemon juice and honey
Mix lemon juice and honey with warm water, and drink. You should drink this a few times a day.
Sucking on and eating popsicles during the day can be very helpful in bringing down inflammation and soothing the affected area.
Warm (not hot) drinks
Warm drinks generally will help to soothe the affected area, and reduce inflammation. They may also help to promote healing.
Create and use a steam tent. Get a bowl and pour hot water into it. Put a towel over your head, and inhale the steam. It will be even more helpful to add a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil to the water.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Having a large amount of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet will help to boost your immune system, and support your body in addressing the inflammation of your uvula. Make sure to incorporate fruits and vegetables into every meal, and if you have snacks, try to make them comprised of items from this food group.
Mix a small amount of baking soda with water, and use this as a gargle. You should gargle with baking soda and water several times a day.
Warm lemonade with honey
Make fresh lemonade and mix in honey. Drink this at a tepid temperature a few times a day. The honey will help to soothe your swollen uvula and is antibacterial, and the lemon’s vitamin C will give a boost to your immune system.
Mix one teaspoon of the inner bark of slippery elm to boiling water (two cups). Once you have allowed this drink to cool a little (so it is warm rather than hot), and you have strained it, drink it. You should drink this several times a day. Slippery elm is extremely soothing to the throat, and will help to calm your swollen uvula.
Add two teaspoons of dried marshmallow root to boiling water. Let it steep, and then strain. Once the liquid is warm rather than hot, drink it. You should drink this several times a day. This tea will help soothe your swollen uvula.
These are just some of the possible causes, symptoms, and home treatments of uvulitis. Make sure to consult your doctor to figure out the possible causes and appropriate treatments for a swollen uvula.