What Causes Herpes on Tongue?

Herpes on tongue

Have you ever thought about the bacteria living in your mouth? The infections that can affect your tongue? One such infection is herpes on tongue or tongue herpes. Scary, right?

Perhaps you’ve only known about genital herpes, until now. If so, today is a great day to learn about herpes on the tongue. This infection is also called oral herpes or cold sores, which means having painful sores affect your whole mouth.

It is very important to take care of your mouth and be mindful of what goes in there. To provide more knowledge, here are some facts about herpes on the tongue that you should know.

Related Reading: How to Treat Canker Sores on the Tongue?

Herpes on Tongue: What is it?

What is herpes on tongueTonge herpes is an infection very similar to genital herpes, mainly because they are both caused by the same virus—The Herpes Simplex Virus.

The only significant difference between the two is that genital herpes affects the genital parts, while tongue herpes affects the tongue.

Generally, the infection disturbs the mouth as a whole, developing excruciating sores on the gums, lips, inside the cheeks and on the roof of the mouth.

This is the most distressing and harsh form of oral herpes.

It usually lasts for ten days at a time.

Herpes on Tongue or Canker Sores: How to Know?

If you want to be able to tell if herpes on tongue, i.e., cold sores are like canker sores, keep reading!

Canker sores are unsettling ulcers on the tongue, inside the cheeks, on the lips and sometimes even on the lining of the throat.

However, the exact cause of canker sores is unknown. Biting the tongue or cheek, or aggressively brushing the teeth are possible causes. These sores are not at all contagious and aren’t induced by an infection.

Cold sores, on the other hand, are contagious and more dangerous than canker sores. They take place inside the mouth: on the tongue, by the lining of the cheeks, the throat and sometimes on the lips.

They look like red blisters and are associated with Herpes Simplex VirusType 1.

Herpes on Tongue Signs and Symptoms

Although it may sound complicated, tongue herpes can be identified. Here are some of the signs and symptoms:

1. Fever

Herpes on tongue infection can cause your body temperature to rise above normal, which helps in maintaining the normal body functions, indicating an infection in the body.

2. Muscle Pain

This particular symptom is more popular among people who have pre-existing conditions such as high cholesterol, osteoporosis, depression and multiple sclerosis.

People taking medication such as aspirin, Zocor, Crestor, and Lipitor might experience this symptom, too.

3. Uneasiness and Discomfort

This is the first and most common symptom of herpes on tongue.

4. Itching Around the Tongue or Bleeding Gum

The burning sensation occurs long before the sores can be seen on the tongue.

This is followed by red blisters which eventually erupt and begin to look like shallow, grey ulcerations on red bases.

Given some time, the ulcerations dry up and start to look yellowish in color. Bleeding gums is also a sign of herpes on tongue.

5. Cold Sores

Cold sores on your lips, tongue or the inside of your mouth should be considered a red alert. They are extremely painful and can make eating and drinking challenging for those infected.

6. Swelling of the Neck Lymph

These can be excruciatingly painful as well.

7. Dry Mouth

A dry mouth can also be looked at as a symptom of infection as it’s the first sign indicating that your body is dehydrated, possibly due to tongue herpes infection.

8. Less Frequent Urination

Less than usual urination might take place due to your body trying to cover up for all the water lost as a result of the infection.

9. Drowsiness

Drowsiness during the day can be caused by an active tongue herpes disease.

Related Reading: What Causes Urobilinogen in Urine?

What Causes Herpes on Tongue?

Herpes on tongue

Tongue herpes can be triggered by several emotional and physical causes. Some of them are as follows:

1. Food

Consumption of certain foods such as chocolate, coffee, nuts, popcorn, and alcohol can trigger the inactive virus.

2. Menstrual Cycle

When on your period, it is very important to lower your stress levels. The release of hormones during menstruation can cause herpes on tongue infection to recur.

3. Friction

Friction during sexual intercourse can cause herpes on tongue infection to reactivate. Luckily, you can use lubricants to avoid the risk.

4. An Active Sex Life

Physical sexual activities result in the rigorous rubbing of the genital areas which might cause the tongue herpes infection to settle in.

5. Lifestyle

Personal lifestyle factors such as diet, inadequate sleep, stress, and fatigue can trigger the herpes simplex virus.

With time, you will be able to identify your triggers and start avoiding them.

Tongue Herpes Stages

There are three stages to herpes on tongue infection. They are listed below:

1. Primary Infection

The infections enter your body through the skin and mucous membrane and start reproducing. There is a chance you will either develop all of the symptoms or none of the symptoms during this stage.

2. Latency

Herpes spends most of its time in an “inactive” state. However, it transfers to the dorsal root ganglia, in the spine, and continues reproducing.

3. Recurrence

Even though the virus is inactive, it might reactivate due to emotional or physical stress. This will lead to the production of more sores in your mouth. For instance, a cold might trigger a “cold sore” outbreak.

Is Tongue Herpes Contagious?

Yes. Very much so. Herpes on the tongue is a very contagious infection. There are some preventive measures that can keep you from contracting the disease.


  • Direct contact with sores or herpes lesions from infected people.
  • Oral sex with people infected by the disease.
  • Physical contact with the victims of the herpes on tongue infection.
  • Sharing utensils with infected people.

Related Read: Causes & Natural Treatments for Bumps on Back of Tongue

Tongue Herpes Treatment

Several treatments for tongue herpes are available. A list of such treatments is provided below:

1. Herpes Medications

Drugs like Valtrex for Herpes and Acyclovir have been proven to be effective for the herpes on tongue.

2. Lysine Supplements

Lysine is an amino acid that exists in certain types of foods. There are many lysine supplements available on the market today that can help treat the infection.

3. Laser Treatment

Laser therapy has also proved to be an effective treatment for oral herpes.

It reduces the pain as well as the number of times the infection resurfaces. However, laser therapy is recommended only for elderly people as it does not cause many side effects.

4. Use of Specific Mouthwashes

You can use mouthwashes with ingredients such as benzydamine and chlorhexidine to wash your mouth. They work as analgesics.

Please note that some of these treatments may not work for you because our bodies are very different. Also, herpes on tongue cannot be cured as it’s settled deep inside the spine and can only be treated.

Home Remedies for Herpes on Tongue

Apart from the treatments available on the market, there are some home remedies that can be used for this infection, as well.

1. Try to Consume as much s Liquid as You Can

As mentioned earlier, tongue herpes can cause total dehydration of the mouth. This can cause more bacteria and lead to other dental diseases. Luckily, you can prevent this by consuming liquids.

However, all liquids cannot be used. For example, alcohol can worsen the condition as it is said to be a drying agent. Water, however, can help. Try to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water each day.

2. Try Painkillers

If the cold sores are giving you too much trouble or are unbearably painful, you can turn to pain relievers. Ibuprofen works like a charm.

3. Do Not Disturb the Lesions

Disturbing the lesions might cause them to spread and affect other areas that would have otherwise gone uninfected.

4. Maintain Proper Hygiene

It’s very important to maintain proper hygiene. This will help in toning down the severity of the infection.

5. Try Not to Use SLS Toothpaste

SLS toothpaste contains a high amount of sodium lauryl sulfate which will increase the irritation and might cause the pain to worsen. Avoid these kinds of toothpaste completely.

Read Next:

“Herpes On Tongue: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment,” I Breath Bad website, last accessed February 5, 2018; https://ibreathbad.com/herpes-on-tongue/.

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Dr. David Cummings, MD

David Cummings, MD, is a medical reviewer and editor at Daily Health Cures. David received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.