Biologically, burning our mouths on hot food means next to nothing. Psychologically, I feel as though it represents all my internal shame and lack of self-control. What, I’m too much of a gluttonous little gobbler to wait an additional 60 seconds after pulling a Hot Pocket out of the microwave before I begin eating it? Do I have to act like I haven’t eaten in three days rather than avoid searing the top layer of my upper mouth?
My only comfort is that nobody is above burning themselves on hot consumables.
The bigger issue, then, is what we’re supposed to do about it. The obvious solution would be to use greater caution before placing food in our mouths, but that seems too lofty a task. We aren’t a preventative society; we’re one that treats symptoms rather than causes.
Let’s start with the very moment you’ve realized your mistake in placing hellfire food in your mouth. You might be inclined to suffer through the pain and continue chewing, spit out the food or possibly even immediately swallow it. The right thing to do, however, is spit it out. Most mouth burns are first-degree, but continuing to chew can escalate things to second-degree. This is particularly true with dense foods like cheese that will retain heat in your mouth. If you decide to swallow it, you risk developing second-degree burns in your throat and esophagus, which could potentially swell to the point where you can’t swallow. Cases of this exact scenario happening to people who panic-swallowed hot microwaved food have been reported in medical journals in the past.
Assuming you spit out your food, though, the worst thing that usually happens is some mild peeling. If your mouth burn is bad enough that swelling or blistering occurs, you should seek medical treatment. But beyond that, you can treat the symptoms of the burn at home.
The interior of your mouth is actually made of skin. For that reason, mouth burns can be managed like most other topical burns. As soon as the burn happens, you should let some ice water sit in your mouth to cool things down, which will minimize further burning, and ideally, some of your future pain.
After the burn is said and done, you can take ibuprofen to help you get by. Oral pain ointments like Orajel can also help. Infections from mouth burns are rare, but rinsing with saltwater can help prevent them, as well as minimize pain and promote healing.
The biggest thing to consider with a mouth burn is your diet. Acidic and spicy foods will irritate it, and sharp, crunchy foods probably won’t feel excellent, either. Instead, Healthline recommends eating cold, smooth and creamy foods like milk and ice cream. It goes without saying, but hopefully you can learn your goddamn lesson for a few days and not eat anything too hot again. Repeatedly burning your mouth can lead to some scarring, and you might lose your taste buds for a few weeks.
That said, I don’t think we’ll ever stop burning our mouths, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop feeling like complete idiots for doing so. And while having to spit out hot food might make you look even more idiotic, it’s better than going to the hospital because you decided to swallow hot lasagna.