Updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read

What Are the Effective Remedies for a Swollen Uvula?

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Your uvula is the drop-like tissue hanging down the middle of your upper throat. It has several vital functions, including:

  • Saliva production to lubricate your throat
  • Preventing food from going up your nose by closing off your nasal cavity
  • Triggering your gag reflex when disturbed
  • Making consonant sounds in many languages

If your uvula is swollen or damaged, it can impact your ability to talk, eat, and breathe normally.

What is Uvula Swelling?

A swollen uvula can touch the back of your tongue, causing the sensation of a foreign object in your throat. It can cause difficulty eating and breathing and sometimes contributes to sleep apnea.

If your uvula becomes inflamed and begins to cause issues in your daily life, you should talk to your doctor. Seek immediate medical care if you have trouble breathing.

What Causes a Swollen Uvula?

Uvula swelling (uvulitis) can be caused by:1,2

  • Dehydration
  • Irritation (such as smoking, acid reflux, or intubation during surgery)
  • Allergies
  • Bacterial or viral infections (such as strep throat or the common cold)
  • A flareup of hereditary angioedema (a rare genetic condition)
  • In rare cases, lymphoma (lymphatic cancer)3

Infections that affect your uvula are likely to cause other symptoms, such as a sore throat or tonsillar swelling. When only the uvula is swollen, and there’s no infection, the condition is sometimes referred to as Quincke’s disease.1

When Should You See a Doctor for a Swollen Uvula?

You should see a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Persistent uvula swelling
  • Discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing

Treating a swollen uvula is essential to prevent further complications. Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your swelling with a physical exam, a history of your symptoms, and possibly a blood test or throat culture.

How to Treat a Swollen Uvula

The proper course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause, but it usually includes medication. You may also need to avoid certain irritants or allergens.

In rare cases, you may need uvula reduction surgery (uvuloplasty). It’s the only option if you have a naturally elongated uvula unrelated to inflammation.

What Medicine Can I Take for a Swollen Uvula?

Your doctor will prescribe medication according to the cause of your swollen uvula:

  • Antibiotics – To treat bacterial infections such as strep throat
  • Antihistamines – To block an allergic reaction causing inflammation
  • Steroid medication – To reduce swelling

Sometimes uvulitis is caused by a virus. If your healthcare provider determines this to be the case, they won’t prescribe antibiotics, as they’re only effective for bacterial infections.4

Your symptoms may subside independently. However, your doctor may prescribe a steroid to relieve the swelling.

How Do You Treat a Swollen Uvula at Home?

To relieve the discomfort of a swollen uvula at home, you can use some common sore throat remedies, such as:

  • Throat lozenges
  • Gargling with warm salt water
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication (as directed by your doctor)

These home remedies aren’t likely to reverse the swelling. But they can relieve throat pain while your symptoms subside on their own or while you take the medicine prescribed by your doctor.

It’s essential to see your doctor to determine the cause of the swelling because the wrong treatment could prolong your symptoms. In one case, uvulitis caused by a virus only began to subside once the person stopped taking antibiotics.4

How to Reduce Uvula Swelling After Surgery

Your uvula can be injured during surgery, particularly if your healthcare providers place a breathing tube down your throat (intubation). Intubation may cause trauma to your uvula, making it swollen.

As your body recovers, your swollen uvula should improve. In the meantime, your doctor may suggest taking OTC medication to relieve pain or prescribe a steroid to reduce inflammation.

Talk to your doctor if you don’t see any swelling reduction or experience any additional symptoms, especially if they affect your ability to breathe or eat.

What is the Outlook for a Swollen Uvula?

Uvula swelling is generally temporary. As your body recovers from whatever caused it, the swelling should decrease, especially with appropriate treatment.

It’s important to seek advice from a medical professional to ensure your treatment is appropriate to the cause. For example, a bacterial infection may require antibiotics, while a viral infection needs a different approach.

In addition, while your swelling may go down on its own eventually, anti-inflammatory steroids prescribed by your doctor could shorten your recovery time.

Tips for Preventing Uvula Swelling

You can’t prevent every possible cause of a swollen uvula, but you may be able to reduce your risk by doing the following:

  • Avoid irritating your uvula with foreign objects
  • If you smoke, try to reduce or quit smoking
  • To the best of your ability, stay away from anything you know you’re allergic to
  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep your immune system strong by getting quality sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet

Swollen vs. Cleft Uvula

Around 2% of people have a cleft or bifid uvula, which is a uvula with a split down the middle. It is technically a mild form of cleft palate and often doesn’t cause any problems.

You can be perfectly healthy and have a split uvula. It’s a bit more common in Asian and Native American populations. However, in some cases, it can be a sign of an underlying disorder affecting your soft palate or other connective tissues.

A cleft uvula isn’t the same as uvulitis and may not indicate anything wrong. But you should see a medical professional if you notice any unusual changes or symptoms relating to your uvula.

Summary

Your uvula is the tissue hanging down in the middle of your throat. It performs several important functions related to breathing, eating, and speech.

Inflammation of the uvula (uvulitis) can cause it to swell, interfering with everyday activities and possibly making breathing difficult. Infections, irritation, and a variety of other causes can cause uvulitis.

If you notice unusual changes to your uvula, have persistent throat discomfort, or have trouble breathing normally, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
12 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Sanchez et al. “Quincke’s disease: an unusual pathology.” Journal of Surgical Case Reports, 2023.
  2. Shomali, W., and Holman, K. “Concurrent uvulitis and epiglottitis.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2016.
  3. Iversen et al. “Lymphoma of the Uvula: Clinical, Morphological, Histopathological, and Genetic Characterization. A Nationwide Danish Study From 1980 to 2019.” Frontiers in Surgery, 2021.
  4. Nomura, R., and Kitazawa, K. “Uvulitis caused by parainfluenza virus.” BMJ Case Reports, 2022.
  5. Lathadevi et al. “Isolated uvulitis: An uncommon but not a rare clinical entity.” Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, 2005.
  6. Wawrzyniak, M, and Eilbert, W. “Child With Sore Throat.” Annals of Emergency Medicine, 2016.
  7. Kibira et al. “Uvula infections and traditional uvulectomy: Beliefs and practices in Luwero district, central Uganda.” PLOS Global Public Health, 2023.
  8. Loftus et al. “Elongated Uvula Causing Chronic Cough: Role of the Modified Uvulopalatoplasty Procedure.” Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, 2015.
  9. Elsherbiny et al. “The Significance of Uvula After Palatoplasty: A New Technique to Improve the Aesthetic Outcome.” The Cleft Palate Craniofacial Journal, 2017.
  10. Lopez-Molina et al. “Elongated Uvula After Esophagogastroduodenoscopy.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2015.
  11. Peghini et al. “Traumatic uvulitis: A rare complication of upper GI endoscopy.” Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, 2001.
  12. Gandhi, R. “Postoperative uvular edema after general anesthesia in an adult patient.” Ain-Shams Journal of Anesthesiology, 2018.
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