DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 82. I have had something wrong with my tongue for months. I went to my family doctor, and he thought it was a yeast infection. He sent me to a specialist, who called it black tongue. He sent me to a store that sells colloidal silver and tea tree. They helped. I thought I was cured, but about three weeks later my tongue started burning terribly. The medicine no longer works. My daughter looked on the Internet and said I have burning tongue syndrome. I started taking vitamin B-2. I don’t know where to turn. — R.R.

ANSWER: Papillae cover the tongue. They’re tiny projections that look like miniature icicles when viewed with a magnifying glass. Some contain taste buds. In black tongue, those papillae are elongated and turn a dark color. Left alone, the color usually disappears. Gently brushing the tongue with a toothbrush gets rid of it faster.

Burning tongue is dreadfully painful, and the burning sensation sometimes can be felt on the gums, roof of the mouth and inner cheeks. Post-menopausal women are the primary targets. As soon as you can, consult your dentist. You need a thorough exam of your mouth. Deficiencies of the B vitamins — thiamine, riboflavin, folate and B-6 — might be responsible, but such deficiencies are rarely seen in well-fed populations. Iron deficiency is another possibility. A dry mouth leads to burning tongue, and it can be remedied with artificial salivas, sugar-free chewing gum and sometimes medicines.

In most people, a cause is never found. Some home remedies include rinsing your mouth with cold apple juice. Or you can make a mouth rinse consisting of equal parts Kaopectate and Benadryl elixir, both readily found in all drugstores without a prescription. Swish it around in your mouth at least three times a day, and then spit it out. Some people find that adding four or five drops of Tabasco sauce in a spoonful of water is an effective mouth rinse. Definitely spit this out after rinsing. If it causes great pain, don’t pursue the treatment.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Every time I have had a flu shot, I have been ill afterward, increasingly more intense each time. Nausea, vomiting, high temperature, sweating and even hallucinations are some of the symptoms. I no longer take the flu shot.

I am, as has been pointed out by my mother, very sensitive to egg whites. I understand they are components of the flu shot serum. Apparently, there are other people with the same dilemma.

Why is egg sensitivity rarely or never addressed when the shots are being promoted? I can’t get any concrete answers on this. I am supposed to take the flu shot because I work in the health care field. — E.B.

ANSWER: Most flu vaccines are grown in eggs. Egg protein can cling to the viral particles and be incorporated into the vaccine. People with egg allergy should not take the vaccine if it has been prepared in eggs.

This piece of information should be elicited from everyone who wants a flu shot. I don’t know why it’s not mentioned in campaigns advertising flu immunization. I believe it’s taken for granted that the person administering the vaccine will ask the question.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I recently recovered from a bout of pancreatitis. On release from the hospital, my instructions were to avoid all alcohol, follow a low-fat diet and take three Viokase tablets before every meal and two before an evening snack. How much food constitutes a snack? Is one cookie or a few pretzels enough to warrant taking two pills? — J.S.

ANSWER: One of the pancreas’s functions is to provide digestive enzymes for food breakdown and absorption. It makes proteinases, enzymes that digest protein, amylases, enzymes for starches and lipases, enzymes for fat. Your oral medicine Viokase contains all three enzymes.

You could probably get by well without taking the medicine before eating a few pretzels or a cookie. However, if you don’t want to take any chances, count those as a snack and take the medicine. You’re not going to overdose on it.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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