No, you’re not burning off your taste buds. It just feels that way.
We’ve all been there – We know that our pizza just came out of the oven, but we’re hungry now, dammit. So, ignore every sensible thing our brain tells us, we listen to our stomach and dig in.
Yup. It’s hot. And now your mouth feels like it was the scene of a four-alarm fire.
The burns you experience when you eat hot food before it’s cooled are almost always first-degree burns, which means that they really don’t do any lasting damage to your mouth, health, or ability to taste in the future, but that doesn’t make them any less of an annoyance for the hours and days after your bad decision.
Since technology isn’t going to bail us out of this mess in the near future, it’s on us to treat the damage we do.
Speaking to Buzzfeed, Dr. Allison Bruce, a dermatologist, shares the ins and outs of burning your mouth. She says, “Mouth burns are usually first-degree burns, and sometimes second-degree but it’s less common. The mouth is lined with a mucus membrane and there’s no spongy or fatty layer underneath like regular skin, so it just adheres to bone.”
Here’s a video showing exactly what goes on when you dive into food before it’s cool enough to eat:
Like any other minor burn, you’re going to get mild to moderate pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Your body will run its course healing the damage done, but you can speed things up a bit by taking a few steps.
First, you should get some cool or cold water (but not ice – it can stick to the burn making things worse), and swish it around your mouth. This is helpful because it will remove any hot remnants that could be doing damage while also cleaning the newly-burned area of any foreign matter, most likely food.
The pain will likely be gone in just two or three days because your mouth heals so quickly, but the wound itself won’t be gone for about a week. That said, barring some pretty bizarre eating practices, you can resume life as normal when the pain is gone.
Here’s the part where we tell you that prevention is the best practice, but hunger and general excitement about food has a way of winning out over common sense, so the best practical advice we can give is to keep a glass of water around for when you throw caution to the wind at 11 PM with your Bagel Bites.
In the days following, the pain will subside, but the healing continues. To keep things going smoothly, your best bet is common sense. Stay away from more hot (temperature and spiciness) foods, as well as really acidic fare. And put down that spoonful of Cap’n Crunch – Hard, sharp snacks can undo the healing measures in place, slowing the recovery and causing a fair amount of pain along the way.
So maybe next time you’re starving, opt for some soft, cool Jello and give your mouth a break.