Dry, cracked lips are generally just an annoyance, but they can be a sign of a more serious medical condition in children. Understanding the different chapped-lip causes and their accompanying symptoms can help you determine if your child simply needs a better lip ointment or a trip to the doctor's office.
Dehydration commonly causes dry, cracked lips in children. When your child doesn't drink enough liquids, or he loses liquids through vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration may occur. Additional signs of dehydration include fever, fatigue, less frequent urination, dry skin, dry mouth and sunken eyes, cites Drugs.com. Allergies and windy weather can also cause your child's lips to become dry and cracked. Lip-licking also causes lips to chap. He may also experience dry or cracked lips if he breaths through his mouth, instead of his nose.
Kawasaki disease causes red, dry, cracked lips, which may bleed. In Kawasaki disease, the blood vessels, especially those around the heart, become inflamed throughout the body. The disease causes a fever that lasts for at least one week, and does not respond to antibiotics. Kawasaki disease primarily affects children under 14, with 80 percent of cases in children under the age of 4. The symptoms change as the disease progresses. Early symptoms include red eyes, red and spotted tongue, red and swollen hands and feet, rashes and swollen lymph nodes. Heart complications and an abnormal liver test may also occur in the first one to 11 days. Most cases of Kawasaki disease resolve themselves within four to eight weeks, says the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated.
You can treat most cases of dehydration at home. Give your child a store-bought oral electrolyte solution for children for 24 hours. Give the solution slowly, in doses of no more than 1 tbsp. every one to two minutes if she's been vomiting, according to Drugs.com. Once rehydrated, you can slowly introduce normal foods if your child has stopped vomiting. Your doctor will treat Kawasaki disease with antibiotics to kill any infection. Your doctor will focus on stopping the fever and possible inflammatory complications.
Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated is one of the best ways to prevent dry, cracked lips. Your child should also wear a lip balm containing sunscreen and petrolatum or beeswax. When your child goes outside in cold weather, he should reapply the lip balm and cover his lips with a scarf, says MayoClinic.com. Explain to your child that licking his lips only makes it worse. If he feels the need to moisten to his lips, he should reach for his lip balm, instead. At home, a humidifier can moisten the air.
If at-home treatment doesn't heal your child's lips, contact your doctor, as there may be an underlying medical condition. If you suspect Kawasaki disease, immediately contact your doctor. Dehydration can be very serious in babies. If you notice any signs of dehydration in a baby younger than 6 months, or if the baby has vomiting or diarrhea, seek medical care immediately. Additionally, if a dehydrated child of any age has a fever, a very dry mouth, wrinkled skin, blood in her vomit or diarrhea, sunken eyes, no tears when she cries or sunken spot atop her head, contact your doctor immediately.