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Keywords:

  • atopy;
  • food;
  • fungiform papillae;
  • glossitis;
  • heat

Summary

Background  Asthma, eczema and hay fever are the classical manifestations of atopic disease. Geographic tongue (benign migratory glossitis) has also been reported to be a manifestation. Anecdotally, atopic people frequently report irritation of the tongue by heat and certain foods, which may be more common than realized.

Objectives  To determine whether atopic people have an increased likelihood of a sensitive tongue manifest as inflamed fungiform papillae and a history of irritation by certain foods.

Patients/methods  A descriptive classification of inflammation of the fungiform papillae on the tongue was developed using a 9-point analogue scale where 1 was considered normal and 9 was considered to be severely inflamed. An opportunistic sample of participants were classified as atopic or not on the basis of a personal history of asthma, eczema or hay fever. An examination of the tongue was performed using the classification and then a questionnaire was administered on whether they burnt their tongue easily with hot food and whether they were irritated by certain foods.

Results  There were 200 participants aged 20 years and over of whom 104 (52%) were classified as atopic on the basis of the personal history. There was a significant positive association between increasingly inflamed fungiform papillae and the likelihood of being atopic. There was also a positive association between increasing inflammation of the fungiform papillae and a history of both burning the tongue easily and irritation of the tongue by food. There was an increased likelihood of a history of irritation of the tongue with certain foods amongst atopic participants and they were also more likely to burn their tongue with hot food than those who were nonatopic.

Conclusion  Atopic people are more likely than the normal community to have inflammation of the fungiform papillae of their tongue which correlates with a history of a sensitive tongue manifest as irritation by heat and certain foods. These data suggest that atopic disease may occur in the mouth as a common inflammatory change on the tongue—fungiform papillary glossitis.