What Causes A Swollen Uvula?

The uvula is the fleshy, teardrop piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat. It makes up part of the soft palate, and it secretes saliva to moisten your mouth and throat. It also helps to push the food you eat to the back of your mouth towards your throat.

Inflammation of the uvula, also known was uvulitis, can be caused by infections, allergies, or trauma. When swelling occurs, you may feel irritation or discomfort, but it’s usually temporary. However, if swelling of the uvula is severe or persists, it can interfere with your ability to swallow. In some cases, although it’s not common, a swollen uvula can restrict your breathing.

Thankfully, sometimes uvulitis can be resolved with a simple home remedy. Other times, medical treatment is necessary. 

Symptoms of Uvulitis

Uvulitis occurs when the uvula is inflamed or swollen. Your immune system uses inflammation as a response to potential threats, including injury, illness, allergies, and other triggering events. 

When your uvula is inflamed, you may notice:

  • Itchiness or discomfort
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Burning sensation
  • Feeling like you have something stuck in the back of your throat
  • Trouble swallowing

According to a case study published in the IDCases, other potential symptoms include:

  • Swollen tonsils
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Nasal regurgitation
  • Excessive saliva
  • Painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing
  • Gagging 

Causes of Uvulitis

Uvulitis can be caused by infections, allergies, or trauma. In most cases, the cause is unknown. However, bacterial and viral infections are a common culprit. 

Infections that may cause uvulitis can include:

Other possible causes of uvulitis can include:

  • Genetics: Certain traits, like a cleft lip or palate, can cause you to develop a swollen uvula. 
  • Allergies: Allergies can, in some situations, trigger swelling in the mouth and throat. When swelling occurs due to allergies, it is known as isolated uvular angioedema or Quincke’s disease. Anything you are allergic to could potentially trigger the reaction, including foods and insect bites. If the swelling cuts off your breathing, you should contact emergency medical services immediately.
  • Smoking: Smoking can irritate the tissue in your mouth and throat. For some, this can include the uvula.
  • Pollutants: Certain chemicals in the air can irritate your mouth and throat. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some common causes include volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and radon.
  • Trauma: Trauma or injury can cause irritation and swelling to the back of the mouth. Potential reasons you may injure your mouth include acid reflux or due to an endoscopic procedure.

How is a Swollen Uvula Treated? 

If you do not feel well, you may want to see your healthcare provider. They can help diagnose the underlying condition causing your symptoms.

When you see a healthcare provider for symptoms such as swelling in the back of the mouth, sore throat, and fever, they may:

  • Review your personal and family medical history.
  • Ask you about your current symptoms, when they started, how bad they are, and so on.
  • Ask you whether or not you smoke or use other tobacco products.
  • Discuss if you have had exposure to new food, chemicals, or other possible irritants.
  • Perform a physical exam that may include taking a throat swab or blood test.

If your healthcare provider determines you have uvulitis, they will likely treat the underlying cause of the swelling. Some possible treatment options include:

  • Antiviral medications for severe colds, flu, or COVID-19.
  • Antibiotics
  • Prescription emergency epinephrine (Epipen) for severe allergic reactions that may be life-threatening

Home Remedies for a Swollen Uvula

You may be able to help manage your symptoms with some at home treatment options. 

Some things you may find helpful for a swollen uvula can include:

  • Sucking or chewing on ice to help with swelling
  • Gargling with warm salt water
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Getting enough rest 
  • Drinking hot tea with honey to help ease pain in the mouth and throat
  • Avoid allergens and irritants, such as pollen and smoke
  • Try a throat lozenge 

Frequently Asked Questions

The following provide answers to some of your frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Is a Swollen Uvula Serious?

In general, a swollen uvula is not a serious medical condition, but it can cause discomfort, irritation, and can block your airways. However, it’s unlikely that it causes long term harm or be fatal. It’s still a good idea to see your healthcare provider if you develop swelling, since it may be an indication of a more serious underlying condition, such as the flu or COVID-19.

How Long Does a Swollen Uvula Last?

Your swollen uvula should clear pretty fast, as soon as you address the cause of the swelling. If it is the result of an allergy, it should clear within a few days. When a cold or other infection causes, you should notice it improve as you recover from the illness.

Why Did I Wake Up With a Swollen Uvula?

If you wake up with a swollen uvula, it may be the result of trying a new food that you are allergic to. Other possible reasons may include exposure to an irritant or you may be developing an infection, like a cold.

A Quick Review

The uvula makes up part of your mouth’s soft palate and is found towards the back of your mouth. A swollen uvula may occur due to several reasons including illness, allergies, and trauma. When it occurs, you may experience some discomfort or pain, trouble swallowing, or symptoms related to an underlying condition. 

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Helwany M, Rathee M. Anatomy, head and neck, palate. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  2. Morooka Y, Furuno K. An infant with streptococcal uvulitis presenting with airway obstruction. IDCases. 2020;21:e00842.

  3. Ahmadi A, Jamali M, Sanaei A. Acute isolated uvula swelling: A rare manifestation in patients with COVID-19. RJMS 2021; 27 (11) :83-89

  4. Chandran A, Sakthivel P, Chirom AS. Quincke’s disease. BMJ Case Reports CP. 2019;12(9):e231967. doi:10.1136/bcr-2019-231967

  5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Care for your air: A guide to indoor air quality.

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