What Parents Need to Know About 'Geographic Tongue'

What Parents Need to Know About 'Geographic Tongue'

It might look scary, but this condition is actually harmless to your children.

It is just like any other day and your toddler comes running to you to show that he has done a good job brushing his teeth and tongue. But suddenly you realise, Hang on, is that a shape like the continent of Africa that I see on his tongue?!?

You panic for a bit and do a quick search on the net and you find this: geographic tongue in toddlers. Then you start to worry, It looks so inflamed and red! Is it harmful and does it hurt? Let's find out.

Geographic Tongue in Toddlers

geographic tongue in toddlers

Nobody knows what causes geographic tongue, but we do know that it runs in the family. It may also be caused by a lack of vitamin B says Healthline, however, there is no solid proof for this.

Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms include:

  • Map-like appearance to the surface of the tongue
  • Patches/sores that migrate daily
  • Smooth, red patches and sores on the tongue that vary in size and colour
  • Soreness and burning pain (in some cases only)geographic tongue in toddlers

Your doctor or paediatrician can diagnose this condition just by looking at your toddler's tongue, and in most cases, tests are not needed.

No treatment is required for this condition, and there's no need for worry as it will not affect your toddler's sense of taste. Some may experience a burning sensation in the mouth, but this is very rare in children according to Dr Greene.

However, if your toddler is really uncomfortable, your doctor can always prescribe an antihistamine gel or steroid mouth rinse to help ease the discomfort.

When do parents need to call the doctor?

What Parents Need to Know About 'Geographic Tongue'

Geographic tongue in toddlers that last more than 10 days might require medical help. Also, call your doctor if your child:

  • is having breathing problems
  • has a severely swollen tongue
  • has problems speaking, chewing, or swallowing


If your child is prone to this condition, avoid giving food that is hot, spicy, acidic and salty. You can also discuss with your doctor about giving your child vitamins and supplements. Switching your toddler's toothpaste to an organic one that has no additives might help reduce irritation as well.

Geographic tongue in toddlers will go away on its own. It is benign and harmless, but it can last for months, and it often recurs. So do not worry too much, and focus on keeping irritants to a minimum.

Source: Mayo Clinic, WebMD

Feature and Lead image credit: Bin im Garten

Read also: Tongue tie in babies: Everything you need to know about this condition

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Written by

Rosanna Chio

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