We’ve all had the sensation of tasting blood in our mouths. That distinct metallic taste has most likely filled your mouth, whether you’ve bitten your cheek or tongue, cut the inside of your mouth with your braces, or flossed your teeth too aggressively. But have you ever had the unsettling sensation of tasting iron in your mouth when you hadn’t inadvertently injured yourself?
Suppose you’ve ever had a taste of blood while running. That could even be something you’ve experienced because engaging in a high-intensity workout can cause you to develop a metallic taste. However, it is not the only cause of the taste. Here are some possible causes of a bloody or metallic taste in your mouth, as well as whether or not you should be concerned.
Here are the Possible Reasons
A woman can be seen in a Tiktok video slowing down on her run and moving her mouth as if tasting something, writing that she tastes blood. Someone identifying himself as an emergency physician then intervenes to explain why this occurs. According to Lisa Lewis, MD, a Fort Worth, Texas clinician, this video is accurate. “This is thought to be related to the breakdown of red blood cells, which releases minute amounts of iron in the lungs,” she explains to health. “Irritated areas in the mouth, nose, or throat may also cause a metallic taste in the mouth if a person is working out and breathing heavily.” Dr. Lewis adds that this is most common in drier climates.
The runner in the video hinted that she tasted blood because she was out of shape. While this is not always the case, Dr. Lewis recommends taking a break and checking to see if there is any visible blood in your mouth. If there is actual blood or if the taste persists, consult your doctor.
When the pandemic began, one of the first widely reported symptoms of COVID-19 was a loss of taste. However, the disease may cause more than just a loss of taste. “It has been reported that some individuals infected with COVID-19 experience the symptom of a metallic taste in their mouth,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a New York City-based internist. Doctors in Philadelphia, for example, wrote about a 59-year-old woman complaining that the foods she normally enjoyed tasted “bland and metallic” after contracting COVID-19.
The exact cause of that symptom in some people is still unknown, with Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe stating that “the pathogenesis of this symptom in those with COVID-19 continues to be investigated.” According to Dr. Lewis, the good news is that ongoing research indicates that this is not a permanent occurrence. In the case of the woman reported by Philadelphia doctors, the metallic taste disappeared about two weeks after it first appeared.
This experience can be caused by more than just a virus-like COVID-19. Dr. Lewis explains that bacterial infections can also cause blood in the mouth. Fortunately, this will also be resolved when the infection is properly treated.
Supplements and Medications
Have you recently begun taking a new medication? Or have you added new supplements or vitamins to your regimen? If you’re tasting blood, one of those medications may be causing the bloody flavor on your tongue and lips. “Antibiotics, antidepressants, and blood pressure and diabetes medications may have a blood taste side effect,” Dr. Lewis says. “Multivitamins, particularly heavy metals or iron, may cause a blood taste.”
Fortunately, if your medications cause the unpleasant taste, it is probably not a cause for concern and may even go away in time. According to Dr. Lewis, if the taste persists, it could be caused by something else and should be discussed with your healthcare professional.
If you have allergies, you understand how disruptive and irritating they can be. They turn lovely spring days into a tissue fest or make snuggling with your pet an itchy, eye-watering experience. They can also cause problems in your mouth. “Allergies are a common cause of taste changes, particularly a metallic taste in the mouth,” says Dr. Lewis. “Aside from increased secretions in the respiratory passages, allergy medications (such as antihistamines) may cause a metallic taste and a dry sensation in the mouth.”
Pine Nut Disease
This one is extremely specific. It is not common, but it does occur in some people who consume pine nuts. “There have been previous reports of individuals experiencing a metallic taste in their mouth for several days after consuming pine nuts,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says. “The altered taste in the mouth appears to be temporary, and it is unclear why this phenomenon may occur in a small number of people.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, someone who develops pine nut syndrome will typically experience a bitter metallic taste 12 to 48 hours after eating pine nuts (NIH). This flavor is usually enhanced when combined with other foods and lasts two to four weeks. According to the NIH, “recent findings have correlated this disorder with the consumption of nuts of the species Pinus armandii, but no potential triggers or common underlying medical causes have been identified in individuals affected by this syndrome.”
Few things can cause major changes in your body, like pregnancy, affecting everything from your appetite to the frequency with which you visit the restroom. And if you’ve ever been pregnant, you know how the experience can mess with your senses. “One of the more common causes of a metallic taste in the mouth is pregnancy, and it is most likely due to the hormonal fluctuations that occur during this time,” says Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe. While some pregnancy-related changes are permanent, Dr. Lewis says that this one usually resolves itself.
Inadequate Dental Hygiene
The American Dental Association recommends that people brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, using a toothbrush with soft bristles. Sure, you might slack off now and then. However, maintaining good oral hygiene is critical, as neglecting it can result in bad breath, cavities, and even the taste of blood in your mouth.
“If a person does not brush their teeth regularly, they may develop gingivitis or periodontitis, which are inflammation or shrinkage of the gum tissue,” Dr. Lewis explains. “A metallic taste in the mouth may result from the altered anatomy of the oral tissue with these conditions.”
Many reasons you may taste blood in your mouth are not serious and can be treated. Some of the reasons, however, are a little more serious. “Altered taste, also known as a metallic taste,” Dr. Lewis says, “is associated with neurological conditions such as Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis thought to be caused by a viral infection) and dementia.” “A metallic flavor associated with neurological illness is caused by weak signals from the underlying brain malfunction.”
When might you notice the onset of this symptom? “Although there have been rare case reports of a metallic or blood taste in the mouth as the first sign of neurological disease,” Dr. Lewis says, “a change in taste is typically noted in conjunction with other neurological symptoms.” So, if you taste blood, don’t assume you have a neurological disorder.
Should you Visit a Doctor if you Taste Blood?
Even if you don’t believe the underlying cause is serious, don’t ignore the taste of blood in your mouth. Dr. Lewis strongly advises you to consult your doctor if you taste blood, particularly if you are unsure why you are experiencing the change.
The underlying cause of such a taste is usually not serious. “Unfortunately, some people have a serious illness or multiorgan medical conditions that may cause a metallic taste in the mouth,” Dr. Lewis says. According to Dr. Lewis, diabetes, particularly hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), is one example of a disease that can have an effect. “If a person with diabetes notices this symptom, they should check their blood sugar immediately and treat as their doctor advises,” she says. According to Dr. Lewis, chemical exposure can also cause taste disturbances, which is something a doctor should look into.
However, if you have a metallic taste in your mouth due to one of these more serious causes, “other symptoms will likely be present and obvious,” according to Dr. Lewis. Even if you continue to have the taste on your own, she recommends “having a medical evaluation to ensure there are no significant health problems that need to be addressed.”
Who Might be Affected?
According to Robinson, blood testing during or after a workout is generally associated with exercise intensity and duration and certain environmental conditions. Some experts believe it occurs more frequently in endurance athletes, such as distance runners, “due to the length of the exercise,” he said. Weight training, for example, can provide more opportunities for rest and recovery.
According to Robinson, some people running in the upcoming Chicago and Boston marathons may notice this taste because they will be pushing themselves harder than they did in training.
According to Miller, your baseline fitness level may also play a role in whether or not you experience the taste. He believes it is more common in people who are just starting to exercise or who have suddenly increased the intensity of their training.
“Their cardiopulmonary systems are likely already pre-trained not to have this condition occur unless they hit the intensity button for a workout or two a little more than even they were ready for,” Miller said of more experienced athletes.
What Causes me to Taste Blood During or After a Workout?
Although this sensation has not been thoroughly studied, experts say several scientific theories could explain the taste, which frequently occurs without visible blood.
According to Timothy Miller, a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, one of the most basic reasons is that your nose and throat mucous membranes are irritated. This irritation can result from being sick, frequently blowing your nose, and working out at higher altitudes or in environments with dry or cold air. According to Miller, exercise may cause the mucous membranes to “bleed just ever so slightly” on top of the existing irritation.
“That blood can leak down into the back of your throat, eventually touching your tongue’s taste buds,” he explained.
Oral hygiene is another possible cause, according to Lucchino. A metallic taste can also be caused by old or loose dental fillings or tooth decay.
James Robinson, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, states that the “most popular theory” involves the heart and lungs. During strenuous exercise, the heart can become overworked, resulting in fluid buildup in the small air sacs of the lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema, which is frequently associated with heart problems.
Experts believe that the pressure on the lungs, in this case, may cause some red blood cells in lung tissue to “escape into the airway,” according to Robinson. Hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that gives blood its metallic taste, is found in red blood cells.
Although “exercise-induced pulmonary edema” has been documented in research, Robinson claims a proven link between that phenomenon and the bloody taste has yet to be established. And while pulmonary edema is “usually a pretty scary phrase,” Miller claims that “a very low or very mild amount of that occurs just from increasing intensity and effort during a workout.”
“It’s not enough to cause heart failure or anything like that,” he added, but it could “be enough to cause some of those air sacs to leak a little bit of blood.”
What can I do to Avoid this?
Miller advised getting a physical exam before beginning a workout program if you’ve been relatively sedentary and have never done regular, intense exercise. It’s also important, he says, to stay hydrated to keep your mucous membranes moist.
Although the bloody or metallic taste is associated with a hard workout, Bryant believes that touting the sensation as a badge of honor is “misguided.” “This isn’t something you should experience if you’re getting an appropriate amount of exercise for your level of conditioning.”
Robinson concurred. “If anything, you should probably back off a little bit and not try to reach that point,” he says because this metallic taste could be a sign that you’re overworking your body.
A taste of blood in the mouth, also known as dysgeusia or parageusia, is a taste disorder in which a person perceives the taste of metal even though there is nothing in the mouth. It may occur in conjunction with fatigue, a constant feeling of exhaustion and a lack of energy.
A metallic taste on its own may indicate poor oral health. When a person experiences both a metallic taste and fatigue, the causes can range from medication side effects to more serious underlying medical issues, such as kidney disease.