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Head & Neck Radiation Therapy Care

Sore mouth or throat

The type of treatment you are receiving can cause some soreness in your mouth and throat. The following guidelines can help with these symptoms. Mix ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in eight ounces of warm water. Rinse your mouth and gargle with this solution at least four to six times each day. Do this especially after each meal and before going to sleep at night.

You may remove food particles from your teeth with a soft toothbrush or toothette. Water picks are very useful for keeping your mouth clean. You can add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water in the reservoir. Do not use commercial mouthwashes. They contain alcohol, which will cause more dryness in your mouth and may be irritating.

If swallowing food causes pain, or if your mouth becomes very sore, tell your nurse or doctor. Medicine is available to ease this discomfort. We recommend that you eat foods that are soft and moist. They are easier to swallow than foods that are firm and dry. Try using gravies and sauces to moisten dry foods. Try eating smaller meals, closer together. For example, try eating six small meals throughout the day.

Avoid the following that can cause irritation to your mouth and throat: • highly seasoned foods • tart/sour foods • very hot or very cold food • alcoholic beverages • smoking/chewing tobacco

Thickened saliva and dry mouth

Use a humidifier or vaporizer in your main living area or your bedroom. Drink four- to eight ounce glasses of fluid per day, unless your physician indicates otherwise. You may want to carry a small plastic bottle of water when you leave home. You can buy artificial saliva at your local drugstore.

Taste changes

Taste changes may develop during therapy. Different foods may seem to taste alike, have a slightly bitter taste, or no taste at all. It is very important that you continue to eat a well-balanced diet to avoid losing weight. Remember, normal cells in the treatment area need nutrition to repair themselves. The taste of meat may change after several weeks of treatment. If you are unable to continue eating meat, substitute fish, poultry, eggs, cheese or milk products. You may find it easier to eat slightly chilled foods, such as milk shakes, jello, pudding, etc. For more nutritional information, talk with your nurse about setting up an appointment with our dietitian. Hoarseness

When your voice starts to become hoarse, speak in a whisper. Trying to speak in a normal tone will further irritate your vocal cords. Limit the use of your voice for the rest of the treatment and for one month after the treatment ends. This will help your vocal cords heal and will help your normal voice return.

Skin reaction

For more information see "Caring for Yourself at Home While Receiving Radiation Therapy - Skin Care."


You may notice that you feel unusually tired during the last weeks of your treatment. This is an expected side effect. We recommend you pace your activities and include frequent rest periods, to avoid becoming overtired.