Possible causes of swollen lips

There are several conditions that can cause swollen lips. Some can be serious, even life-threatening, while others may resolve on their own. See your doctor if:

  • you have unexplained swelling
  • Swelling that does not improve after a few days
  • you also have trouble breathing
  • If you suspect any of the following life-threatening conditions

This article looks at some of the causes of swollen lips.


Swelling of the lips is a symptom of oral allergy syndrome (OAS). When you have this type of allergy, certain foods can trigger mouth tingling and allergic inflammation. OAS is rarely considered serious. It usually resolves on its own within an hour.

Angioedema is a more worrying allergic reaction. It can be triggered by a few different things, including:

  • what you have eaten
  • insect bites
  • hay fever
  • medicine you have taken

It causes swelling of the lips, face and tongue. Symptoms usually appear quickly. There may also be redness, bumps, or hives. The swelling may make it difficult for a person to speak.

If angioedema affects the trachea, it can be life-threatening. Call 911 if the swelling is accompanied by:

  • respite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cyanosis or bluish lips, fingers, or skin
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Angioedema emergency can be used epinephrine. This medication helps your airway muscles relax so you can breathe.

If you have these reactions, you should carry an EpiPen (epinephrine). Symjepi (epinephrine) is a single-dose option. Always have one of these two options ready.


Trauma to the face or lips can cause swelling. This can happen if you burn your lips or get hit in the mouth on hot food. In rare cases, swelling can be controlled with an ice pack. It usually resolves within a few days.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have a cut on your lip:

  • deep
  • excessive bleeding
  • cause a lot of pain
  • Greater than 1/4″ (6mm)

If you have a large cut on your lips, be sure to see your doctor within 24 hours. If the wound is older than this, it cannot be treated with sutures, especially if it is very swollen or at risk of infection. Instead, your doctor will clean the wound and schedule repairs within a few days.

If you have stitches near your lips, follow these care guidelines:

  • Eat soft foods for two to three days.
  • Avoid spicy foods until the wound has healed.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal. This will help remove debris from the wound.
  • Do not drink from a straw. The sucking motion creates negative pressure that can damage the repair.
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chapped or sunburned lips

Very chapped lips may become swollen. Chapped lips can occur if you live in a dry climate, if you lick your lips too much, or if you stay outdoors in windy, sunny or dry weather. To prevent this, try any or all of the following:

  • lip balm containing petroleum jelly or beeswax
  • lip products with sunscreen
  • wearing a hat
  • not licking lips
  • Do not pick on dry, flaky skin

Why do I need an SPF lip balm?


Some infections can cause swollen lips. This includes infections caused by fungi, viruses or bacteria.

Sometimes bacteria can infect chapped lips. This causes redness, soreness, and some swelling. If you have an infection, treatment will depend on what’s causing it. Infections should always be managed by your doctor.

An infection should be considered a serious infection if it is accompanied by:

  • Fever over 100.4 F
  • trembling with chills
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pus discharge
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If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor or go to the nearest urgent care center.


mucocele A cyst that forms after you bite your lip or suffer an injury that damages your salivary glands. Fluid backs up or builds up under the skin in the area and forms a lump.

Mucoceles can vary in appearance, but usually appear as a lump rather than a generalized swelling. They are not considered a serious health problem, although some can be troublesome. If so, they can be surgically removed or cut open and drained.


A few different things can cause swollen lips. Some are far more dangerous than others.

Oral allergies may cause inflammation. This response usually improves within an hour. A more severe reaction may also cause swelling of the tongue or face. Seek immediate medical attention if you have wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Other causes of swollen lips include injuries, chapped or sunburned lips, mucoceles, and infections. If you have deep wounds or signs of infection such as fever, chills, and vomiting, be sure to see your doctor.