Lips Swelling From Acidic Foods

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Close-up of hands slicing oranges on a cutting board. (Image: natthawon/iStock/Getty Images)

Lip swelling after eating acidic foods is a sign of an allergic reaction. All adverse reactions you experience need to be reported to your doctor for assessment. In some cases, lip swelling may be a sign of a severe allergic reaction that could lead to life-threatening symptoms. Stop eating all acidic foods, such as oranges, lemons and spicy foods, until you can be seen by your doctor.

Allergic Swelling

Lip swelling occurs from a food allergy because of an overreaction of your immune system to the proteins found in the acidic foods. Every substance that enters your body is assessed by your immune system. If the immune system makes a mistake and classifies the acidic food as a harmful substance, you have an allergy. The immune system releases immunoglobulin E antibodies, which trigger the production of histamine in mast cells located throughout the body in soft tissue. Histamine causes inflammation wherever it is released, such as in the lips.

Anaphylaxis

Lip swelling is a concerning symptom commonly associated with anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. During anaphylaxis your body unleashes excessive amounts of histamine and other chemicals that overwhelm the body, sending it into a state of shock. Lip swelling that forms with hives, shortness of breath, an increased heart rate and light-headedness needs to be reported to emergency medical personnel immediately. Call 911 or visit your local emergency room. In many cases of anaphylaxis, you will need an injection of a prescription medication, epinephrine.

Allergy Testing

A food-related allergy needs to be identified in order to properly prevent the reaction from occurring again. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and what acidic foods you suspect trigger the reaction. Your doctor may recommend allergy tests that will expose your body to small amounts of different proteins from various acidic foods to determine which ones cause a reaction in your body. A common allergy test takes the proteins and inserts them under the top layer of you skin. If you’re allergic to the substance, you will develop inflammation within 15 minutes.

Treatment

If your lips begin to swell after eating acidic foods, call your doctor and take an oral antihistamine. The antihistamine will block your body from producing histamine, which is causing the inflammation in the lips. If the antihistamine doesn’t alleviate your symptoms within 15 minutes, go to the emergency room. An epinephrine injection may be required if you are experiencing anaphylactic shock. This medication is synthetic adrenalin that will restore normal breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.

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