Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can constantly licking one's lips cause discoloration?"
My 5 year old is likcing his lips almost constantly, which (in addition to being a germ risk!) seems to me to be discoloring his lips. They've been getting paler and rougher for several weeks, especially getting bad when the weather turned cold. Is this a real problem? Should I actively discourage him?
"Chapped lips" is a common problem both in children and adults, especially in the winter months. It can usually be treated successfully with simple measures. You may discuss this issue in more detail with your pediatrician or family medicine doctor. "Chapped lips" is the name given to cracking and inflammation of the lips from a cycle of drying and over-wetting. What happens is that some irritant, such as cold weather, removes the skins natural oils. The lips are then licked, which further removes the oils making it worse! Over time the inflamed skin may begin to look discolored. The solution to this problem is to break the cycle. You can usually do this by encouraging your child not to lick their lips and by applying petroleum jelly or a non-flavored lip balm very frequently, perhaps 10 times per day or more often. Occasionally, a steroid cream is necessary to break the itch cycle. Usually, over the counter hydrocortisone cream is sufficient for this task. As always, the diagnosis and the management of your child's particular skin complaint will require a physical examination by your personal doctor. If the symptoms persist, scheduling an office visit is recommended.
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