It’s cold outside and there’s nothing like a warming hot chocolate or a slice of cheesy pizza or some spicy curry to take the chill away. In fact you just can’t wait for that sip, slice or slurp.
But if you’ve misjudged the heat or the spiciness, you’ll soon be wishing you’d waited. It’s insult to injury when you rush in and the next thing your mouth is burning – not only are you in pain but you’re still hungry – what to do?
How do you cool your mouth after eating something too hot to handle?
What did the damage?
There are three basic types of mouth burns – the type caused by temperature (boiling liquid, bubbling fillings), the type caused by spicy heat, or capsaicin, which produces the ‘heat’ in curries and chilli dishes; and the type caused by horseradish/wasabi paste/hot mustard.
With luck, the treatments for all types will be at hand if you’re at home, or you can ask for one if you’re dining out.
How to treat the heat
If it’s an actual burn to your tongue or palate, grab a cold or iced drink to reduce the heat still doing damage to your mouth. If it’s really bad try sucking on some ice cubes until the pain settles. Then avoid eating anything crunchy or very salty until your mouth heals – these things will aggravate the damage.
If you misjudged the ‘medium hot’ with your Indian curry and now have a super-stinging tongue you need something dairy to help dissolve the spicy oil doing the damage. A glass of milk, a yoghurt side dish or even icecream work as natural emulsifiers to help remove the problem.
And if it turns out that pale green paste next to your sushi isn’t avocado (and it generally isn’t!), just grab the nearest drink. Wasabi or mustard pastes are much more water soluble and either water or milk will help take away the pain.
Learn from the burn
Fortunately most burns in the mouth heal quickly – but if yours hasn’t, see your National Dental Care practitioner for further assessment. There may be another issue preventing healing or causing pain.
Preventing burns next time requires patience, young grasshopper. It’s not always easy to tell just how hot a drink is, or whether the filling is still bubbling away as you put the apple pie into your mouth. Even though you’re really hungry, a moment of observation or a tentative taste rather than a gulp is so worthwhile if it saves you from becoming a burns victim.