Herpes Tongue

Herpes tongue is a variation of cold sore herpes (oral herpes). In addition, herpes simplex type 1 is responsible for 80% of herpes in the mouth infections, and herpes simplex type 2 causes the rest.

Normally, HSV-1 occurs above the waist and HSV-2 occurs below the waist. However neither genital nor oral herpes are site specific. This means that both types can infect any part of the body.



Herpes on the tongue is a rare reinfection usually caused by cold sore infections known as "herpes labialis" (herpes simplex type 1). 

As well as infecting the tongue, it can also infect:

  • Gums
  • Hard palate
  • Alveolar ridge (a ridge that forms the borders of the upper and lower jaws and contains the teeth sockets.



  • Using a toothbrush belonging to an infected person
  • Sharing infected crockery and cutlery such as spoons, forks, cups or drinking vessels.
  • Sharing food from the same plate with an infected individual.
  • French kissing a person with a cold sore herpes infection
  • Genital herpes and oral sex: performing oral sex with an infected person
  • Autoinoculation (see Herpetic Whitlow). This happens if a newly infected infant, child, teenager, or adult sucks his or her thumb or licks a cold sore on the lip


A first or “primary” infection of herpes tongue is usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms together with tender swollen lymph nodes in the neck and/or groin.


  • A painful throat making swallowing difficult.
  • Shallow ulcers at the entrance to the throat.
  • A grayish coating on the tonsils in teenagers and young adults.
  • Clusters of blisters form, usually on the edge of the tongue. These watery blisters contain a yellowish fluid that is highly contagious.
  • Once the blisters burst, they form shallow ulcers; these ulcers may or may not crust over, depending on tongue movement and the amount of saliva present.


Canker Sores

Canker sores, or "aphthous ulcers," are often confused with oral herpes.

These occur:

  • On the inner cheeks
  • Inside the lower lip
  • On the tongue
  • On the hard palate
  • The gums... never on the lip outside the mouth

The ulcerations are not contagious and they form without first developing fluid filled blisters. In addition, they are small (between 3 mm and 10 mm in diameter), gray or yellowish, round, and have a distinctive bright red rim.

When these ulcers are white or light gray, they are extremely painful and the affected lip may swell.

Canker sores usually last about 1 week and disappear without treatment.



Topical ointments and salves are of no use if a person has cold sores inside the mouth. Therefore, your doctor may prescribe painkillers together with oral antiviral medication, such as:

  • Aciclovir (Zovirax)
  • Valaciclovir (Valtrex)
  • Famciclovir (Famvir)
  • Penciclovir

One of the most effective method of controlling tongue herpes or herpes inside the mouth, is to apply the oral homeopathic spray, "Herpeset" under the tongue three times a day during the outbreak.

In addition, follow the general guidelines laid out in Treating a Cold Sore for optimum results.

Next: Herpes and Pregnancy


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