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Swollen Lips in a Toddler

by |
author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Swollen Lips in a Toddler
A toddler with swollen lips needs evaluation for allergies, unless there's been an obvious injury. Photo Credit James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If your toddler looks like he's been in a back-alley fight -- with swollen, puffy lips -- he may be experiencing an allergic reaction. Take allergic reactions that cause facial swelling seriously, because they can affect your child's breathing. Injury or insect bites or stings could also cause swollen lips in a child too young to tell you what happened.

Evaluation

If your toddler has swollen lips and you think he might have an allergy, call his doctor. An allergic reaction that causes swelling of the lips could also cause swelling in the throat, which could interfere with breathing. If your toddler has a bluish tinge to his mouth or fingernails or if he's struggling to breathe, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.

Possible Allergy Types

Allergic reactions to foods or to substances in the environment can cause facial swelling, hives, rash, gastrointestinal problems or difficulty breathing. Another type of reaction, called oral allergy syndrome, occurs in children who have an allergy to pollen. Similar plant proteins found in some fruits, vegetables and pollen causes a cross-reaction when consumed. For example, a child with a birch tree allergy may have a reaction when he eats apples, pears, peaches or walnuts. Oral allergy syndrome generally causes symptoms only in and around the mouth, with swelling of the lips or tingling or itching in the mouth. Oral allergy syndrome affects adults more frequently than children, causes an almost immediate reaction, and occurs mostly with uncooked fruits and vegetables, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explains.

Treatment

If you feel your toddler is having an allergic reaction but she's breathing and playing normally, give her an oral antihistamine to decrease the allergic response and call her doctor. Write down any food your child had that day. Food allergies that cause facial swelling generally appear within a few hours after eating the offending substance. Eight foods -- eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat -- account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions in children, according to BabyCenter.

Other Possible Causes

While allergy is a common cause of swollen lips in a toddler who doesn't have an obvious injury, he could also have been stung by an insect or injured his lips in some way. Severe sunburn and infections in the skin can also cause lip swelling. If he has swollen lips but no other symptoms, look for bruising or signs of a sting. Apply ice to the swollen area to decrease swelling, make him more comfortable and let his doctor know.

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