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Mouth Sores from Chemo or Radiation

Can Salt and Baking Soda Soothe Mouth Sores?

Mouth sores can be one potential side effect from chemo therapy. I met a friend who was about six weeks ahead of me in his treatment for Non-Hodgkin's' Lymphoma and was a major help to me with his suggestions for cancer insights.

On my first visit to his home, he took me into his kitchen and showed me his jar  filled half-and-half with baking soda and salt next to his sink. He said, "Rinse with a teaspoon of this and warm water several times a day, after you eat and before you go to bed to avoid mouth sores from chemo or radiation."

Of course, before starting treatment, I spoke to my oncologist, and she told me and confirmed that oral health is vital to healing. She said that mucositis (or  swelling and irritation in the mouth possibly caused by cancer therapies) can cause pain and infections. Mouth sores can make it difficult to eat, drink and swallow. She also advised me to get a gentle toothbrush, like a Sonicare, to further reduce inflammation in the mouth. Regular brushing can be to harsh on these delicate tissues.

Medline describes proper oral care in their description of mucositis. 


What are the Symptoms of Mucositis?

The organization Cancer Care is a wonderful resource for mucositis and describes the symptoms of a sore mouth as follows: 

  • Gums appear to be swollen and red
  • Throat and mouth feel sore or tender
  • Small ulcers
  • Discomfort in the throat or mouth, especially when eating hot or cold foods
  • A change in the amount of mucus in the mouth

A sore mouth caused by radiation and chemo-therapy can be very difficult to deal with, especially when you're dealing with the cancer itself. 


When to Call your Doctor

Mouth Sores

When going through treatment, use your journal to write down any symptoms you may be having. Do this daily so you know the changes in your body and can pinpoint the timelines of changes to your doctor.

Be on the lookout for mouth sores and note when you start to notice changes in your tongue, gums and cheeks. Call your doctor if you develop a fever or you are unable to eat or drink and describe your timeline of symptoms. Your doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics to handle an infection in your mouth. 


How Long do Chemo Mouth Sores Last?

Usually, mouth sores appear a few days after your treatment starts, and they’ll disappear two or three weeks after your chemo ends. But everyone is different, so the range will vary per person.

Often, mouth sores from cancer treatment are the worst around a week after chemo. After that, you can expect symptoms to resolve on their own.


Soothing Help

If you do get mouth pain, suck on a sugar-free Popsicle or some ice chips for relief. There are other rinses available as well, so talk with your dentist. You don't want mouthwash with alcohol because this can further irritate your mouth.

I found avoiding spicy food and staying hydrated was also helpful. Honestly, only bland, healthy food tasted good while I was on my R-CHOP regimen anyway.


About Chia's Silver Lining

At Chia's Silver Lining, we are working to provide comfort, compassion, and community to those going through cancer or other serious illnesses. If you are a patient, caregiver, or friend, Chia's Silver Lining can bridge the gap in medical care to help you focus on the other types of healing.

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