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Learn about your swollen uvula, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen uvula from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Your Swollen Uvula May Also be Known as:
Swelling uvula
Uvula swelling

Swollen Uvula Symptoms

After a scratchy throat and some trouble swallowing, you finally grab a mirror and notice a strange sight: a swollen uvula. You may not even have known the name of that fleshy tissue hanging in the back of your throat before it started giving you problems, but now you just want it to go away. The uvula is part of the soft palate made up of muscle, connective tissue, mucus glands and immune cells. When functioning properly, it swings upward to block food from entering your nose when you swallow. When swollen, it's unsightly and uncomfortable.

A swollen uvula usually occurs along with a throat infection, but less commonly, it can happen in isolation.

Children are more vulnerable than adults and swollen uvula symptoms are associated with other symptoms, including:

Swollen Uvula Causes Overview

A sore throat is often the first sign of a swollen uvula as the swelling can also impact the tonsils and surrounding soft palate.

In most cases, a thorough examination and investigation of potential risk factors points to an underlying swollen uvula cause, which include some of the following:

  • Infection: Bacteria that cause strep throat and tonsillitis can also lead to infection and swelling of the uvula.
  • Instrumentation: Medical procedures that involve the mouth and throat or those that require a breathing tube can cause irritation and swelling of the uvula.
  • Allergic reaction: Certain foods and medications may cause swelling of the back of the throat, including the uvula, along with symptoms like rash or itchiness.
  • Medication side effect: Certain drugs like painkillers or high-blood pressure pills may cause a swelling reaction called angioedema that typically involves the lips and throat.
  • Steam or chemical inhalation: Breathing in hot air, smoke or harsh chemicals causes burns and irritation that lead to swelling.
  • Toxic ingestion: Swallowing chemicals accidently or intentionally irritates the back of the throat.

Top 8 Swollen Uvula Causes

  1. 1.Acute Viral Sinusitis

    Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus spaces behind the nose and cheeks. These spaces produce mucus, which drains into the nose. If the nose is swollen or if the mucus does not drain, this can block the sinuses and cause pain or infection.

    You can treat your symptoms at home using ibuprofen (for pain) and Tylenol (for a fever). Antibiotics for this diagnosis are not helpful because this is likely a viral infection.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    headache, cough, sore throat, sinusitis symptoms, muscle aches
    Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Influenza

    Influenza, or Flu, is an infection of the airway caused by the flu virus, which passes through the air and enters the body through the nose or mouth. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the flu is usually more serious.

    If your flu-like symptoms are existing for less than 48 hours, it might be helpful to seek care by telephone or in a walk-in-clinic to get a course of oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Most people will get better on their own by drinking lots of fluids and taking an over-the-counter medication such as acetominophen (Tylenol) to help with aches or fever.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, cough, muscle aches
    Symptoms that never occur with influenza:
    headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  3. 3.Strep Throat Requiring Throat Swab

    Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection that can make the throat feel sore and scratchy. Only a small portion of sore throats are the result of strep throat. And, if you do not show enough signs of a true strep throat, testing may be needed before treatment is begun.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours, where a diagnosis can be made via a "rapid antigen test" (it's a throat swab). Treatment with simple antibiotics would be given only if the test is positive. It is important to get treatment, however, because of the possibility of getting a disease called "rheumatic fever" after the strep throat infection.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, sore throat, fever, rash
    Symptoms that always occur with strep throat requiring throat swab:
    sore throat
    Symptoms that never occur with strep throat requiring throat swab:
    general weakness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Viral Throat Infection

    Viral pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx, the part of the throat between the nasal cavity and mouth, which causes throat pain.

    Antibiotics are not useful for viral infections. You can gargle with salt water and use over the counter pain medication like Tylenol to treat your painful or sore throat.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    sore throat, cough, congestion, fever, hoarse voice
    Symptoms that always occur with viral throat infection:
    sore throat
    Symptoms that never occur with viral throat infection:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

    Swollen Uvula Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen uvula.

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  5. 5.Viral Infection of the Larynx (Voice Box)

    Acute laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx) due to infection.The vocal cords are located inside the larynx. Normally, the vocal cords open and close freely, but in laryngitis, they become inflamed. This swelling causes distortion of the sounds produced by air passing over them, making one's resulting voice sound hoarse.

    You can safely treat this medical condition by yourself, as it is likely a viral infection. Home remedies such as gargling with salt water and staying hydrated will likely be enough to restore a lost voice.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    sore throat, fever, runny nose, dry cough, hoarse voice
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Acute Bacterial Sinusitis

    Acute bacterial sinusitis occurs when the sinuses become infected and, in turn, inflamed, which causes pain and other symptoms. The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the face that are generally clean and empty but when sick collect excess mucus and can become infected.

    You should visit a physician or urgent care facility in the next day or two. It’s likely your sinus infection is caused by a bacterial infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics. In the mean time, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken to help with pain & fever.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, cough, muscle aches, sore throat
    Symptoms that always occur with acute bacterial sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute bacterial sinusitis:
    clear runny nose, being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Mononucleosis Infection

    EBV Mononucleosis is a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. Diagnosis is confirmed by looking for antibodies against EBV. Treatment involves supportive care (hydration, antipyretics, and analgesics, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Aspirin should not be given to children because of the possibility of Reye syndrome. It is also recommended that you do not do any strenuous physical activity and contact sports in the initial 3 to 4 weeks of illness due to the potential for splenic rupture.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), cough
    Symptoms that never occur with mononucleosis infection:
    rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Swelling Caused by Use of an Ace Inhibitor

    ACE Inhibitors are drugs used to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure and diabetes. In rare cases, these drugs can cause an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

    You should go to the ER immediately. There, your doctor can consider the possibility of an allergic reaction, treat it, and make sure that you are able to breathe.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, swollen face, trouble swallowing, swollen lips, swollen tongue
    Symptoms that never occur with swelling caused by use of an ace inhibitor:
    hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

Swollen Uvula Treatments and Relief

A swollen uvula can be bothersome and uncomfortable, especially if it gets in the way of speaking or swallowing. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for the problem, which usually takes several days or more to resolve. In the meantime, most at-home treatments focus on addressing discomfort and keeping the problem from getting any worse.

At-home swollen uvula treatments:

  • Eat soft foods: Eat small meals of soft foods like yogurt and cottage cheese, well-cooked pasta or rice, and eggs, tofu or beans.
  • Avoid anything spicy or hot: Though boring, bland foods are your best friend when dealing with a swollen uvula that may be extra sensitive.
  • Stay hydrated: It's important to drink plenty of water or other liquids to stay hydrated and help the body in its healing process.
  • Gargle: Lukewarm salt water or mouthwash can be comforting.
  • Throat sprays: Over-the-counter numbing spray like Chloraseptic offer temporary relief from a sore throat.
  • Antihistamine: Try Benadryl to help with any swelling or itching that may accompany the swollen uvula due to an allergic reaction.

Professional swollen uvula treatments:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment for bacterial infection.
  • Steroids: Drugs like prednisone attack the swelling and help to speed recovery
  • X-rays: Imaging can help determine if the swelling is confined to the uvula or if it extends further down the throat and requires further observation and treatment.
  • Tonsillectomy: If your uvula becomes repeatedly swollen as the result of a surrounding infection like tonsillitis, your doctor may elect to remove your tonsils to prevent future infections. The uvula is usually not removed, except in severe circumstances.

Get help right away if you have the following swollen uvula symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • An allergic reaction (or have a history of allergic reactions)
  • Swelling that is getting rapidly worse
  • Inability to swallow anything at all

Since children have smaller throats and airways, it is important that they be evaluated without delay for any swelling in the back of the throat, especially if accompanied by labored breathing, wheezing, drooling or high fever.

FAQs About Swollen Uvula

Here are some frequently asked questions about swollen uvula.

Can a swollen uvula be contagious?

A swollen uvula is referred to as uvulitis, and can be identified when the uvula (the hanging structure in the back of the throat) is swollen. It is common in children, and can be caused by Group A Strep in children from ages 5 to 15. It is a type of strep throat infection and is therefore contagious, but most people will develop pharyngitis (swelling of the pharynx) instead of uvulitis.

Can alcohol cause a swollen uvula?

Alcoholic cleansers can cause uvulitis, though it is uncommon. More frequently, chemical irritants that produce vapors, hot steam, or even procedures on the pharynx like intubation or endoscopy can cause uvulitis. Alchohol routinely consumed as liquor is a less frequent cause.

Why is my uvula swollen when I wake up?

In adults, the most common causes of uvulitis is ingestion of noxious chemicals including alcoholic cleaners, cannabis smoke, medical procedures, hereditary swelling (e.g. angioedema), or allergic reactions. It does not normally occur when one awakes. If you have uvulitis and pain when you wake up, you should see a physician and review the history of the prior night.

Does a swollen uvula cause you to snore?

No, snoring is caused by a "floppy" upper airway. This means that the pharynx — the back of the nose and throat — has increasing collapsibility and resistance as one is breathing at night. It tends to collapse and expand quickly as if it is vibrating. This can result in several medical complications if it is associated with sleep apnea.

How long does a swollen uvula last?

A swollen uvula can last anywhere from a few days to a week and a half depending on the cause. However, if you have a swollen uvula, and particularly if you are having trouble breathing, you should seek medical attention. For most instances of soft tissue swelling, an over-the-counter pain medication is a reasonable treatment.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Uvula

  • Q.How long has your mouth been swollen?
  • Q.Is your mouth swelling constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.Do you have a rash?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our swollen uvula symptom checker.

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Swollen Uvula Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen uvula have also experienced:

    • 14% Sore Throat
    • 6% Fatigue
    • 3% Neck Pain Along the Lymph Nodes
  • People who have experienced swollen uvula had symptoms persist for:

    • 37% Less Than a Week
    • 35% Less Than a Day
    • 14% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen uvula were most often matched with:

    • 7% Influenza
    • 4% Acute Viral Sinusitis
    • 4% Strep Throat Requiring Throat Swab
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Swollen Uvula Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen uvula.

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