Allergic reactions on the lips can be frustrating to experience, especially when you are unsure what the cause is. Continue reading to learn about the causes of an allergic reaction on the lips, its symptoms, and possible treatments.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction on Your Lips?
There are several different causes of an allergic reaction on the lips. You may be able to determine the cause of your allergic reaction by examining the type of reaction on your lips and identifying some of the symptoms you are experiencing. Some of the different types of lip allergic reactions include:
Allergic Contact Cheilitis
Allergic contact cheilitis is a type of allergic reaction that causes lip inflammation as a result of contact with an allergen. Causes of allergic contact cheilitis can include certain chemicals and ingredients in lip balms and lip glosses, lipsticks, sunscreens, mouthwash, and toothpaste.
The symptoms of allergic contact cheilitis can include redness, swelling, itching, burning, or stinging sensations on the lips. In some cases, there may be a rash around the mouth or on the face. If left untreated, it can lead to cracking and fissuring of the lips.
Eczematous cheilitis is also known as eczema on the lips. Potential causes of eczema on the lips include contact with irritants such as soap, detergent, and chemicals. The dryness of the lips due to dehydration or climate changes may also trigger the condition. Other triggers may include certain foods, stress, and an individual’s genetic makeup. Licking or sucking your lips excessively may also lead to eczematous cheilitis.
The symptoms of eczematous cheilitis typically manifest as redness, swelling, and flaking of the lips. Itching is common and may be accompanied by a burning sensation. In severe cases, painful cracks or fissures can develop on the lips. The affected area may also appear dry and scaly.
Angioedema causes sudden swelling in the face, lips, tongue, throat, and other parts of the body. Angioedema is usually caused by an immune system problem where antibodies attack healthy cells instead of foreign substances like bacteria or viruses. This leads to inflammation and swelling in the affected area.
Angioedema can be hereditary or triggered by certain medications, foods, and insect bites. In some cases, no cause can be identified for angioedema. This is known as idiopathic angioedema.
The most common symptom of angioedema is swelling around the eyes, lips, and mouth. It may also cause itching and a burning sensation in the affected area. The symptoms of angioedema can develop suddenly and may last for several hours or days. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention if the swelling occurs in the throat or tongue, as this can cause breathing difficulties.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is an allergic reaction that can occur when people with pollen allergies eat certain raw fruits or vegetables. Some foods contain proteins that are similar to the proteins in different types of pollen. The body mistakes the food for the pollen that you are allergic to, causing an allergic reaction. OAS is also known as pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS).
The most common symptoms of OAS are redness, itching, burning, and swelling of the lips, inside of the mouth, tongue, and soft palate. Other symptoms include an itchy or tingling mouth, face, tongue, or throat. In some cases, there may also be hives on the skin.
Anaphylaxis is an extreme and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs when the body's immune system overreacts to a foreign substance (an allergen) by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream, which cause inflammation throughout the body. This reaction requires immediate medical attention as it happens rapidly and can become serious quickly.
Common allergens that trigger anaphylaxis include certain foods such as peanuts or shellfish and medications such as penicillin. Insect stings from bees or wasps may also cause this issue. Other causes include latex and environmental allergens like pollen or dust mites.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis can be wide-ranging and can affect many parts of the body at once. Most commonly, they begin with itching and swelling in the face, lips, or tongue. Other symptoms include hives, rash, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and nausea or vomiting. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
How to Treat Lip Allergic Reaction at Home
Lip allergies can be a painful and uncomfortable experience. Knowing how to eliminate allergic reactions on the lips can help provide much-needed relief from the discomfort. Fortunately, there are several treatments that you can do at home to help manage the symptoms.
The first step is to identify the allergen that is causing the reaction. Common allergens include certain foods, cosmetics, and medications. Once you have identified the allergen, it is important to avoid contact with it to prevent further reactions.
If your lips are already swollen or inflamed, applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel can often reduce inflammation. Additionally, using over-the-counter ointments or creams containing topical corticosteroids may help reduce inflammation and heal chapped lips. Petroleum jelly or unscented hypoallergenic moisturizers may also be used to soothe dry lips.
When to See a Doctor
If you think you’ve had an allergic reaction on your lips, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment options. It's especially important to seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Severe swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
- Hives that don’t go away after taking an antihistamine
- Painful or pus-filled blisters on the lips
- Numbness or tingling in lips and mouth area
It's important to know how to tell when an allergic reaction on your lips is an emergency. For instance, if you have difficulty breathing or have signs of anaphylaxis, seek immediate medical attention.
Diagnosis of an Allergic Reaction on the Lips
If you think you have an allergic reaction to your lips, see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options. Your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and any potential allergens that may have triggered your reaction.
Upon physical examination, they may look for signs of swelling, redness, and irritation on your lips. They may also perform a skin scrape or patch test to diagnose contact dermatitis or angioedema. Sometimes, blood tests may be used to look for specific allergen antibodies in your system.
A popular method of testing for seasonal and environmental allergies is through using an at-home allergy test kit. At-home allergy testing is a convenient and easy way to identify what you are allergic to from the comfort of your home.
Types of Treatment for Allergic Reactions on the Lips
Besides the quick, at-home treatments discussed earlier, there are more comprehensive and long-term treatments available to treat your allergies. Some of the common ones include:
Your doctor may prescribe medications such as antihistamines and steroids to reduce allergic reaction bumps on the lips and relieve itching. Depending on the type of medication, they can be taken orally or applied topically to the affected area for quick relief.
Sublingual immunotherapy involves administering small doses of the allergens you are allergic to under the tongue, in the form of tablets or drops. Over time this repeated exposure helps build up your immune system’s tolerance and results in long-term allergy relief.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you want long-term relief from your allergy symptoms, Wyndly can help. At Wyndly, our allergy doctors will work with you to identify what you are allergic to and create a personalized treatment plan to get you relief.
Take our quick online allergy assessment today to determine if Wyndly is right for you!