What Causes Lip Inflammation?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 21 February 2020
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Lip inflammation, or painful swollen lips that easily crack and bleed, may be caused by many factors, most commonly exposure to cold air or dry heat, sunburn or dehydration. Viral and bacterial infections can cause lip and mouth inflammation too. More serious causes of inflammed lips include food and drug allergies, often known to cause swelling of the throat and tongue. While a poor diet may contribute to many health issues, vitamin deficiencies may cause dry, cracked and swollen lips. In addition, there are medical conditions such as angioedema or Ludwig's angina which may cause lip inflammation.

Symptoms of lip inflammation due to exposure to the cold are swollen lips that often bleed. One way to prevent inflamed lips during cold weather is to use a protective lip balm that is formulated with medicated ingredients. This may also ease the pain of lip inflammation that is caused by over exposure to the sun. Dehydration and dry heating inside the home may also cause inflamed lips. Treating inflammation caused by dry heat or dehydration may be as simple as drinking more water or using a humidifier to replenish moisture in the air.


Food and drug allergies often cause serious reactions, primarily breathing difficulties or swollen lips, tongue and throat. Anaphylactic shock may be life threatening if medical intervention is not sought promptly. In less serious cases, minor lip irritation and inflammation from allergies may be treated by administering antihistamines, or applying topical ointment to reduce local inflammation. The most common types of food known to cause allergic reactions resulting in inflammation are shellfish, nuts, eggs and milk.

Vitamin deficiencies, primarily a diet low in vitamin B6, can contribute to swollen and inflamed lips. Other symptoms of a vitamin deficiency include lips that peel or break open. Additionally, there may a warm or burning sensation around the mouth and gums. In some cases, peeling lips that split open may lead to infection.

Infections from viruses or bacteria often cause inflammation of the lips. Oral thrush, which is caused by the over production of yeast inside the mouth, may also cause lip inflammation. A thrush infection is typically treated with anti-fungal medications, as well as lip balms as needed. Other types of oral infections, such as a rare form of cellulitis known as Ludwig's angina, may also cause swelling and lip inflammation. This infection generally occurs underneath the tongue, and if left untreated, may cause breathing difficulties or difficulty swallowing.


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Post 8

After I had lunch, like five minutes later, I felt one side of my lips get swollen. I just had eggs with ground beef. I asked my mom and she said maybe it was the hot pepper that I added, but the hotness doesn't bother me.

Post 7

I get fever blisters on my lips sometimes. They pop up on my top lip where it meets the skin, and they feel hot.

If I apply medicated lip cream as soon as I notice one, I can make it go away before it gets really bad. If I don't have any on hand, then it will continue to get hotter and more annoying.

Post 6

@JackWhack – I use lip balm with sunscreen in it, especially when I go to the beach. People tend to skip their lips when applying sun protection, but they are vulnerable to sun damage, too.

I do have an issue with lip balm, though. It always peels off of my lips! It could be that my actual lip tissue is peeling, but it seems to happen more often when I am wearing lip balm.

I just peel it off with my fingernail and reapply it. That's the only thing I know to do, because I definitely don't want to go without it.

Post 5

Lip balm is essential to me. Without it, my lips become so dry that they actually hurt.

It doesn't matter if I use the gooey kind in a tube or the stick kind, just as long as I have something on my lips to moisturize them. If I don't use it, then my lips start to crack and ache within just half an hour!

Post 4

@literally45 – It's possible that you just have a mild allergy to cantaloupe. You are right about lip swelling being abnormal, and if it happens every time you eat the fruit, I would guess you are allergic.

My nephew is allergic to pomegranates, and he didn't discover this until he was eight years old and ate one for the first time. His lips and tongue swelled, and so did his cheeks and throat!

He was severely allergic and had to go to the emergency room. His lips swelled so much that they cracked and started to bleed.

Post 3

@burcinc-- Cold sores cause inflammation because it's a viral infection. The body is trying to fight the infection there which causes a buildup in that area. So it's a normal reaction.

This will be painful, but I recommend using salt. Salt kills the infection and will reduce inflammation even though it will hurt while you are applying it. I usually keep it on for a few minutes (or as long as I can bear) and wash it off. I do it about three times a day. After a couple of hours, you will see that the swelling has gone down.

You can also apply a piece of ice to reduce inflammation. You can use lip balm with an analgesic to relieve the pain.

Post 2

Why do cold sores cause inflammation?

I have a cold sore on my lip now. It's inflamed, red and very painful. What can I do to decrease the inflammation and pain?

Post 1

I think I'm allergic to cantaloupe. Whenever I eat cantaloupe, my lips swell and get inflamed. Thankfully, I've never experienced swelling in my throat or difficult breathing but this lip inflammation can't be normal.

I just avoid cantaloupe now. If I get the opportunity, I want to get an allergy test to confirm if I'm allergic to it or not.

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