What does it mean to have a strawberry tongue and what should I do?

Symptom Database

Have you ever heard of the term “strawberry tongue”? It may sound like a whimsical name for a fruit, but in reality, it refers to a medical condition that can affect both adults and children. In this article, we will explore what it means to have a strawberry tongue, what causes it, the symptoms associated with it, and the available treatment options.

What is Strawberry Tongue?

Strawberry tongue is a condition characterized by a swollen and red appearance of the tongue, resembling the surface of a strawberry. The tongue may also have a bumpy texture, with enlarged taste buds that give it a unique appearance. While it can be alarming to see your tongue in this state, it is important to understand the underlying causes and seek appropriate treatment.

What Causes Strawberry Tongue?

There are several potential causes of strawberry tongue, ranging from mild to more serious conditions. Some common causes include:

  • Scarlet Fever: This bacterial infection is often accompanied by a strawberry tongue, along with other symptoms such as a high fever, sore throat, and a rash.
  • Kawasaki Disease: This rare condition primarily affects children and can cause inflammation in the blood vessels throughout the body, including the tongue.
  • Vitamin Deficiencies: Certain vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin B12 or iron deficiency, can lead to changes in the appearance of the tongue.
  • Allergic Reactions: In some cases, an allergic reaction to certain foods, medications, or environmental factors can cause the tongue to become swollen and red.

Strawberry Tongue Symptoms

In addition to the characteristic appearance of the tongue, strawberry tongue may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue

If you or your child experience any of these symptoms along with a strawberry tongue, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Strawberry Tongue Treatment

The treatment for strawberry tongue depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, such as scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease, antibiotics or other medications may be prescribed to address the infection or inflammation. If the cause is determined to be a vitamin deficiency, supplements or dietary changes may be recommended.

It is crucial to follow the advice of a healthcare professional and complete the prescribed treatment to ensure a full recovery. Ignoring or delaying treatment can lead to complications and prolonged discomfort.

Strawberry Tongue in Adults

While strawberry tongue is more commonly associated with children, it can also occur in adults. The causes and symptoms are generally similar to those in children, but the underlying conditions may differ. Adults experiencing a strawberry tongue should seek medical attention to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Strawberry Tongue in Children

As mentioned earlier, strawberry tongue is more prevalent in children, particularly in cases of Kawasaki disease or scarlet fever. It is essential for parents and caregivers to be vigilant and seek medical advice if their child exhibits a strawberry tongue along with other concerning symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve outcomes and prevent complications.


Having a strawberry tongue can be a cause for concern, but understanding the underlying causes and seeking appropriate treatment is crucial. Whether it is scarlet fever, Kawasaki disease, or a vitamin deficiency, consulting a healthcare professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Remember, early intervention can make a significant difference in your recovery or that of your child. So, if you notice a strawberry-like appearance on your tongue or your child’s tongue, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice and take the necessary steps towards a healthier future.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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