Sore or Irritated Mouth or Throat

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Sore or Irritated Mouth or Throat

Some people with cancer may have a sore mouth, throat, or mouth sores, which may be caused by chemotherapy or radiation treatment to the head and neck area. A sore mouth or throat may make it difficult to chew and swallow enough food to maintain your weight, or drink adequate fluids. Keeping your mouth clean prevents infections, soothes, and improves healing of a sore mouth and throat.

What to Try:

  • Eat soft, creamy, lukewarm and cold foods that are soothing.

  • Blend and moisten foods that are dry or solid to add to soups, sauces, gravies, or casseroles.

  • Drink through a straw; try milkshakes, smoothies, and commercial liquid food supplements.

  • Season foods with herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme.

  • Keep your mouth clean with regular rinses of a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda, ¾ teaspoon salt, and one quart water.

What to Avoid:

  • Very hot foods and beverages.

  • Avoid dry, coarse, or scratchy foods such as pretzels, chips, dry toast, granola, popcorn, nuts, and raw fruits and vegetables.

  • Avoid irritating spices such as chili powder, cloves, curry, hot sauces, nutmeg, and pepper.

  • Stay away from caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and commercial mouthwashes that contain alcohol.

  • Tart, salty, acidic fruits and juices, alcohol, and spicy foods may be irritating.

  • Pickled and vinegary foods, tomato-based foods, peppermint and spearmint may be irritating.



Foods that May Irritate

High Protein

Fish, chicken rice casseroles, macaroni and cheese, tuna noodle casserole, creamed soups, pasteurized eggnog, milk,

Spicy entrees such as spaghetti, tacos, chili; whole meats if not well tolerated

Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta

Bread if tolerated, cooked cereals, cold cereals with milk, pasta and rice in oil or butter

Hard crackers, hard crust breads, salted rolls, dry toast

Fruits and Vegetables

Soft, cooked vegetables; canned fruit

Citrus fruit and raw vegetables

Beverages, Desserts, and Miscellaneous

Non-acidic juices such as apple juice and nectars; decaffeinated coffee, tea, and soft drinks; pudding, cake, cookies (as tolerated), pie; jello; ice cream, sherbet, milkshakes, supplements

Carbonated beverages, citrus juices, tomato juice, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, chocolate desserts, pickles, vinegar, spices, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, snack chips

For more information contact your Dietitian Keri Ryniak, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSD at 443-849-8186

Adapted from Eating Made Easy. Recipes and Tips for the Cancer Survivor. Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Center at GBMC and Eldridge B, and Hamilton KK, Editors, Management of Nutrition Impact Symptoms in Cancer and Educational Handouts Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2004. Revised: 1/11/2008
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