What's with my white tongue?

What's With My White Tongue?

Last updated: April 2021

When I am teaching families about their asthma medicine, I want to make sure they know the difference between a controller inhaler (one they use every day to control swelling in their lungs), or a rescue inhaler (one they use when they are sick or having an asthma attack.) That's important if you are having an asthma attack! But it's also important to know the difference between the controller inhaler and a rescue inhaler because one type of asthma inhaler can cause oral thrush.

What is oral thrush?

Thrush is a fungal (or yeast) infection that causes white spots on your tongue (and sometimes the inside of your cheeks.) Sometimes, it can make your tongue hurt, and the white spots can bleed if they are rubbed or scraped.

Which type of asthma inhaler can cause oral thrush?

Well, it's the one you use the most - your controller inhaler. Your doctor may tell you to take your controller inhaler once or twice a day. To avoid thrush, the instructions on your inhaler will usually say something like:

"After each dose,  rinse your mouth out with water. Then spit out the water (don't swallow it.) This will decrease the chance of getting thrush (a yeast infection) in your mouth."

How common is oral thrush for asthmatics?

I have had thrush several times over the years, as have two of my kids. When I would go see asthma doc, and tell him that I had thrush, he would shake his head with that sort of, "You know how to prevent this. How could you let this happen?"

I don't know how I got thrush. I'm careful to rinse my mouth out each time I use my controller inhaler, and I spit the water out. Did I not rinse my mouth out well enough? Did I accidentally swallow some of the water? Some doctors will also tell you to also gargle with it before you spit it out.

It also helps to use a spacer (also called a holding chamber). It's a plastic tube that attaches to your inhaler. It can help direct the medicine to go down into your lungs, instead of landing on your tongue or ending up at the back of your throat.

So, you have thrush on your tongue - now what?

Well, there are many different brands of medicines. Your doctor can give you an anti fungal pill or you can get a liquid that you swish around in your mouth and then swallow. There are also some home remedies people like to use. Please talk to your doctor to find out what's best for you!

How to avoid getting thrush in the future

I have found that actually paying attention to what I am doing helps. (Like not watching the morning news while I'm using my inhaler!)

So now I:

  1. Use my inhaler with a spacer, swish water in my mouth, and spit the water out.
  2. Immediately eat my breakfast.
  3. Then brush my teeth.

It seems like if I do a "triple whammy", I can avoid thrush.

Has anyone else had thrush? Let's hear your stories!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

How does your asthma change with the seasons?