Lips are very tender parts of our body, which reacts immediately to irritants as a result of their nerve endings. Swollen lips, also called lip oedema, occur when one or both lips enlarge or distend beyond their normal size. The swelling is caused by a build-up of fluid, or inflammation inside the lip tissue which often arise due to different conditions.
Swollen lips can be an indicator of poor health, allergy or food sensitivity. It is sometimes caused by Crohn’s disease, which normally causes swelling in the bowel but can inflame the lymph ducts at any point in the body.
Swollen lips can be caused by:
- Traumaor injury to the lip and mouth area.
- Allergicreactions, either to foods, medications, or other substances.
- Angioedema(This is a condition in which there is swelling of the tissue beneath the skin which is often concentrated around the eyes and lips.)
- Some infections (such as herpes simplex virus infection) can result in blisters (sometimes referred to as cold sores) and localized swelling of the lips.
- Inflammation (cheilitis).
- Medical conditions or illnesses that affect the entire body may cause lip swelling
- Fluid retention or swelling in other areas of the body.
How to prevent swollen lips
- Know what you are allergic to, and try to avoid it. For example; egg whites, nuts, fish, dairy products, sesame seeds, citrus fruits, chocolate, latex, bee and wasp stings, pollens may cause swelling of lips.
- Keep your metabolism in shape. Know about your nutrition necessities and fulfill them.
- Quit biting your lips. It is a bad habit that will not do good for you.
- Avoid long French kisses, as biting and pressure during them can make your lips swell.
- Use repelling cosmetics against insects in summer.
- Do not bother bees’ or wasps’ nests.
Possible solutions to swollen lips
- If you suspect a swollen lip as a result of an allergic reaction, take an over-the-counter antihistamine according to manufacturer’s instructions or as recommended by your doctor.
- Eliminate or avoid any suspected allergens such as dairy, nuts and shellfish that may cause food allergies. Medication or chemicals in detergents may also cause a reaction.
- Clean any cuts on your lip that may cause swelling with a solution of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. The solution may foam up as the peroxide reacts to the natural bacteria in your mouth.
- Wrap crushed ice cubes inside of a strip of sterile gauze and apply to the swollen area for about 10 minutes each hour.
- Ask your doctor about an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help reduce swelling and control pain.
If swelling is a result of a puncture wound to your lip, or if you experience other side effects of an infection, like fever, redness or pus drainage, contact your doctor right away.
Compiled by: Victoria Haruna, BSc. (Biochem), MPH (Health Promotion and education)
- Ewa Posorski; Mouth Inflammation. Tooth Wisdom: Health resources for older adults. 2013
- Lydia Stephens; How to reduce the size of a swollen lip. Livestrong.com. 2013
- Melissa Conrad Stöppler; Swollen lips: Symptoms and signs. MedicineNet.com. 2017