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What is Vaper's Tongue aka Vaping Fatigue?
Keep calm! It sounds gross, but it is not a disease and it’s not permanent. This article deals with the nearly universal phenomenon among vapers known colloquially as "Vaper's Tongue" or "Vaping Fatigue": the temporary reduction in one's ability to taste formerly delectable e-liquids. Though it is usually a mere perceptual and not physiological issue, Vaper's Tongue is an annoyance that affects nearly every vaper at one time or another. Consider yourself lucky if you haven't experienced it--but don't panic if you do. This too shall pass.
What Causes Vaper's Tongue?
Smoking combustible material on a regular basis interferes in a major way with your sense of taste and smell. One of the many great things about quitting or cutting way back on cigarettes is that you start to experience flavor again. Some see immediate change; for others improvement happens more gradually. It may take days or (less often) weeks, but almost everyone who stops smoking will get their buds back.
While this is wonderful (and it is!), our delicate, newly de-tarred and rekindled tastebuds can become over-stimulated by all the new action--especially when you add vaping to the equation. Vaper's Fatigue might be a reaction to sensory-overload. You get a little too much of a good thing and your brain, your buds and your olfactory system react as if they have been smacked upside the head--and more or less shut down for a while.
Another circumstance implicated in Vaper's Fatigue is a sort of vapor "build-up" which may occur on the tongue, palate and nasal passages, effectively creating a barrier between the flavor and your own biological tasting equipment. Vapor residue is harmless, but too much of it can make you feel "phlegmy" or "cotton-mouthed". Luckily, if this is the issue causing reduced taste perception, there are easy ways to banish it which we will come to shortly.
How Long Does Vaper's Fatigue Last?
This frustrating condition can continue anywhere from an hour or two to several days--it seems to vary a great deal from person to person. Many people report periodic cases of Vaper's Tongue, having to live through a short spell of the flavor "blahs" a few times each year. Fortunately, there are ways of combatting and even circumventing the problem completely.
Preventing and Speeding Up the Natural Process of Recovering from Vaper's Fatigue
The following are commonly used remedies and preventive methods, starting with the simplest:
Stay Hydrated Vaping can be dehydrating, most noticeably in the mouth, lips and sinuses. You need all these bits in working order to properly enjoy flavors, so make sure to keep them nice and lubricated by drinking plenty of water. If you chain-vaped for hours, don't be surprised if your nose feels dry and crunchy by bedtime. Try swabbing the inside of each nostril with a bit of petroleum jelly before you go to sleep to help lock moisture in.
Good Oral Hygiene Brush your teeth and tongue daily. Gargle regularly with an antiseptic, lubricating mouthwash. Flossing is important here, too, not only for the usual reasons, but also because decaying food particles lingering in the nooks and crannies between your teeth do not contribute anything positive to your ability to taste delicious flavors.
Switch it Up When the first sign of the dreaded Vaper's Tongue strikes, I start vaping menthol, mint, or cinnamon juices. This works for me every time--though it has been known to take a day or two. If you can't stand those flavors, change things up another way. For instance, if you have been vaping sweet flavors, try switching to something less-so, like an unsweetened tobacco or coffee-flavored juice--or vice versa.
Rotate Flavors I always have at least three different flavors loaded into tanks so that I can easily wake up my mouth if a flavor starts to lose its shine. A change is as good as a rest, so they say.
Vape Unflavored E-liquid Using very lightly or even unflavored e-juice for a few days gives your tastebuds a rest from all the unaccustomed activity and will speed up your recovery as well. For a more persistent case, it helps to add flavor back into your juice slowly, starting at 10% of what you were used to, and building back up to your personal flavor-sweet-spot.
Nasal Hygiene (!?) One way to keep your tasting apparatus moist is by using an ingenious little device called a Neti Pot. You can pick one up at most drugstores for under ten bucks. The Neti Pot is a miniature watering can for your nose. It is quick and simple to use, allowing you to thoroughly clean and moisturize your sinuses by pouring saline solution into one nostril and letting it run out the other. (I suggest doing this over the sink). It feels a little weird at first, and some alarming gook might come out the first time or two you use it--especially if you have been smoking recently--but once you get used to it, I promise you'll be glad you tried it.
Sniff Things Perk up your olfactory sense by inhaling the "cleansing" aroma of freshly roasted espresso beans. You've seen jars of these at perfume counters? Researchers at the University of Oklahoma believe this approach works to refresh our sense of smell and taste because one of the twenty-eight odorants contained in a coffee molecule will bind aggressively and competetively with the odorants currently hogging our taste and smell receptors--in effect, dispatching the old to make room for the new. The secret to using olfactory cleansers is apparently to take a few short whiffs, rather than one long one, which prevents a new state of fatigue from kicking in. Additional sniffers include celery seed and pencil shavings!
Other "cures" I have heard bandied about include squirting straight saline solution, vinegar or lemon juice--even a drop of Marjoram oil or hot pepper oil--on the tongue then scraping it off after a few seconds and rinsing the mouth. These techniques work as palate cleansers, helping to break up vapor residue that may have accumulated. One person I know swears that a drink of milk at bedtime causes her tastebuds to feel renewed the next day.
Other Possible Reasons for a Diminished Sense of Taste and Smell
One often overlooked cause for a temporary reduction in perception of flavor is an actual burn on your tongue. This rarely happens through vaping, but by combining advanced equipment with carelessness or ignorance, it is technically possible to singe yourself with hot vapor. More likely is that you burned your tongue on a cup of hot coffee or hot piece of pizza without really being aware you've done it. It happens to the best of us and it will dull your experience of flavor until it heals. The good news is that the mouth is one of the places in the body that heals the most quickly. Unless you have a very badly burnt mouth, you should only have to wait a day or two before you are enjoying flavors again.
It might even just be a cold or allergies coming on, either of which can blunt your sense of taste for a short while.
Looking on the Bright Side: Vaping Virginity Revisited
If you find your sense of taste dulled by vaper's fatigue (or for any other reason), you may have some down-time--time when you're just not enjoying vaping like you used to. There is one small silver lining, however: a hiatus from full-on tasting ability means that when you DO get your buds back, you'll enjoy your favorite juices all over again. When the flavor comes back--in my experience--it comes back with a bang; as the old song says: "like the very first time".
--Nom de Plume