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What Are the Causes of an Allergic Reaction on the Lips?

Lainie Petersen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An allergic reaction on the lips may be caused by one of several things, including a food allergy, a pollen allergy, or an allergy or sensitivity to lip balms or cosmetics. Swollen, irritated, and itchy lips may indicate that something that a person is eating, drinking, or applying onto or around the mouth is triggering a reaction. Those who experience an allergic reaction of this kind should speak to their doctor so that appropriate testing can be done to determine the source of the problem. Although it may seem like an insignificant issue, if it is a symptom of a more serious allergy, it is important to determine its cause before the person suffering the symptoms has a stronger, possibly life-threatening reaction to an allergy trigger.

A very common cause of an allergic reaction on the lips is the use of some personal care products, such as lip balm, or cosmetics, such as lipstick or lip gloss, and the reaction is often made worse when the user applies more lip product in hopes of counteracting the irritation caused by the original reaction. These products frequently contain fragrances, dyes, and other ingredients that can trigger sensitivities and allergies.

Other possible causes of this kind of reaction may be oral care products, such as mouthwashes or toothpaste, or skin care products. In many cases, the best way to determine whether a product is triggering a reaction is to stop using all products for a few days and then slowly add one product back each day. When the reaction reappears, the sufferer can identify its cause as the product that has most recently been re-added to his or her routine.

In other cases, an allergic reaction on the lips may actually be a result of a food allergy. If a person swallows a food or beverage to which he or she is allergic, one of the initial signs of the reaction may be a swelling or tingling on the lips. In more severe cases, this reaction may be accompanied by other symptoms, including difficulty breathing. Some individuals may suffer from oral allergy syndrome, which is triggered by eating certain fruits and vegetables that have proteins that are constructed similarly to certain pollens.

In most cases, the reaction caused by oral allergy syndrome is relegated to the lips and mouth and does not last long. There have been cases, however, in which sufferers have developed a much more serious reaction and required medical attention.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
By anon947471 — On Apr 25, 2014

I had a reaction to strawberries that sounds like this. As I was eating them my lips felt tingly, and the next day, they continued to feel itchy and looked swollen. I also ate a mango out of the peel two days earlier - mango mouth is a common allergy that can cause itchy, bumpy or swollen lips as well. It's tough nailing down what exactly is causing the reaction.

By serenesurface — On Jul 01, 2013

Some enzymes in fruit, especially in tropical fruits, can cause allergic reactions on the lips.

I'm allergic to bromelain. It's a fruit enzyme that's found in pineapple. If I eat even a small piece of pineapple, my lips and tongue become swollen and itchy. I also get a rash on my face. It's horrible.

I think I'm also mildly allergic to the papein enzyme found in papayas. Last time I had papaya, my lower lip was slightly swollen and red. But it wasn't anywhere close to my pineapple allergy.

By bear78 — On Jun 30, 2013

@fify-- Some people are allergic to cold, so I think it's possible for cold air to cause swelling and other allergic reactions on the lips. But the cold would affect other parts of the body too, like the face and the hands if that's the case.

My sister has a cold allergy and her skin becomes very red and itchy during winter. Her lips become dry, chapped and swollen. She has to apply moisturizing lip balms constantly.

By fify — On Jun 30, 2013

Can cold weather cause swollen lips?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
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