Itching Lips: Causes and Treatments

Itching lips can be caused by an illness, allergy or environmental irritants. Identify your cause and try remedies like aloe vera gel to get instant relief.

Itching lips is usually nothing to worry about. You may be very uncomfortable and your lips may even be sore and swollen. There may be blistering, peeling and a rash around your mouth. The only thing to worry about with this is a possible allergic reaction or an infection. This article will help you understand what causes this condition and how to deal with it.

What Causes Itchy Lips?

There can be a number of different causes of itching lips. Take a look back. Have you changed facial products or soaps? Have you bought new makeup? Were you possibly exposed to an illness? Here are a few of the most common causes:

1.  Cold Sores

Cold sores are usually caused by a virus known as, herpes simplex. This is not the same herpes as genital herpes, it just comes from the herpes family.

Symptoms:

  • Itchy lips
  • Pain around the lips
  • Swelling
  • Small bump or bumps near the lips (eventually open lesions)

Prior to the onset, you may have had:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Mild fever
  • Sore throat

Treatment:

Cold sores usually heal by themselves within one to two weeks. If you get more than one or they do not heal on their own, see your doctor. You may need antiviral medications including Acyclovir, Famciclovir, or Valacyclovir. You can also try the following home remedies:

  • Ice packs or warm compresses
  • Clean the sores with antiseptic
  • Use pain relievers
  • Wash the sores with sea salt water
  • Avoid spicy foods, hot beverages and citrus foods

2.  Allergies

If you have swollen and itchy lips you may be having an allergic reaction to something. Some people only associate allergies with a runny nose or hives, but itching lips and mouths are also a common complaint. It is caused by allergenic proteins in foods that you eat that are similar to pollens you are allergic too. This is known as "cross sensitivity." One example is if you are allergic to ragweed, you may be sensitive to melons. You can also be allergic to certain ingredients in skincare products or makeups.

Symptoms:

When you eat a food that has similar allergic proteins as a pollen you are allergic to, the symptoms usually appear during that allergy season and other times the food may not bother you. You may have:

  • Lip itching 
  • Lip swelling
  • Tongue and mouth swelling

Symptoms usually come on right away after putting the food in your mouth. They shouldn't be ignored and need immediate treatment.

Treatment: 

Do not eat anymore of the offending food and take an oral antihistamine right away. If symptoms persist more than a few minutes or get worse, seek medical help.

3.  Vitamin B12 Deficiency

This usually occurs with deficiencies in the B vitamin groups. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by a number of health issues such as digestive system issues, heavy alcohol use, or autoimmune disorders. It could also be diet related. The symptoms of B12 deficiency can include problems around the mouth area.

Symptoms:

  • Sore tongue
  • Bleeding gums
  • Lip discomfort (itching, soreness, easy bleeding)

Treatment:

Vitamin B12 deficiencies need to be treated with extra supplementation. If you have a severe deficiency or trouble absorbing B12 due to digestive system issues, you may need B12 injections. Some people do okay with B12 tablets or drops under the tongue.

Make sure you get enough in your diet. Vitamin B12 foods include eggs, seafood, poultry, dairy products, and meat.

4.  Temperature Changes and Wind

If you go from a warm environment to a cold environment, the blood vessels in your lips can constrict and cause itching. Being out in the wind can cause windburn and chapping to the lips. This can also cause sore lips.

Treatment: 

Use a scarf to cover your neck and mouth when going out in the cold. Try using lip balm if you are going to be out in the wind.

5.  Medications and Medical Conditions

Some medications can cause localized skin reactions that can also affect the lips. Conditions like diabetes or skin conditions can also cause itchy lips.

Treatment:

If a medication seems to be making your lips itch, talk to your doctor about it. You may be having an allergic reaction to the medication or need to switch to something else with your doctor's advice. If a medical condition is causing it, this may be a sign that you need to get your condition under control.

6.  Environmental Irritants

Irritants like pollution, chemical exposure and smoke can all cause your lips to be itchy.

Treatment: Try to limit your exposure to irritants. Applying lip balm can help soothe the irritation.

7.  Stings and Bites

If you have a sudden onset of itchy lips you might have an insect bite or sting. Certain insects inject a venom that will only make an itch. This is most common with mosquito bites, red ant bites, or small spiders.

Treatment:

Try using a small dab of topical antihistamine cream or take an oral antihistamine. Hydrocortisone 1% over-the-counter cream can help. An easy home remedy is to make a paste with baking soda and water and dab onto the area.

8.  Other Causes

  • Infections in the body (upper respiratory, Kawasaki Disease, stomatitis)
  • Exposure to sunlight/sunburn
  • Vitamin A toxicity
  • Trauma
  • Cancer

Tips for Coping with Itchy Lips

Here are a few helpful things you can do at home to relieve the itchiness:

  • Try changing makeup. If you think that you may be allergic to any makeup products you use near your mouth area, try switching brands to see if that helps.
  • Cut back on smoking and caffeine. Both caffeine and cigarettes can dry out your lips and cause itching.
  • Try aloe vera gel. Aloe vera helps heal the lips and reduce irritation. You can also try some honey and almond oil to moisten the lips. Honey is also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
  • Eat healthy. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to increase the vitamins your body gets. Vitamin deficiencies are a common cause of mouth symptoms.
  • Keep them out of the sunWear a wide brimmed hat and use a sunscreen lip balm. A good after sun balm is milk cream to soothe your lips.
  • Use petroleum jelly. Try a thin layer of petroleum jelly on your lips to help keep them moist.

What Others Say About Itchy Lips

I was having trouble with itchy sore lips and wondered if it was just dryness and weather. I also get the same symptoms when I have a cold sore, so I asked my dermatologist for something. I was given a prescription for a steroid cream and it really helped me fast. I hope everyone finds something that works for them!

I went to a dermatologist and they did allergy testing on me. I found out that I have an allergy to a preservative in certain makeup and face products. Every time I used certain products I would get swollen itchy lips. Now I just look at my ingredient labels and it clears up fast.

I found that extra virgin coconut oil works great as a moisturizer and anti-bacterial salve for the lips and mouth area. It smells great too! Just dab a little on the lips. Then purse your lips to help the oil sink into any cracks.

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