Lip dermatitis is a condition that occurs when the lips become too dry and people spend too much time licking them. The saliva ultimately irritates the lips and causes inflammation. This condition tends to be worse in cold weather because it often causes the lips to be dryer than normal. Lip dermatitis is so closely associated with licking the lips that it is sometimes called lip licker's dermatitis. Children often suffer with this problem more frequently than adults because they may not be able to control their impulse to wet the lips with their tongues.
Saliva has digestive chemicals in it, and this is the real primary reason for lip dermatitis. When people lick their lips, the chemicals in an individual's saliva can actually start digesting the lips very slowly. This generally causes pain and inflammation, which ultimately leads to more licking, which makes things worse.
Interrupting the cycle is the key to treating this condition. If the person is able to stop licking his lips, everything will usually go back to normal within a few weeks. Sometimes a big part of this process is eliminating any excess dryness in the lips. There are various commercial lip balm products that are sold specifically for that purpose, and they usually work well enough to do the job. In some cases, doctors may also prescribe a topical steroid to reduce inflammation,
Sometimes the hardest aspect of dealing with lip dermatitis is the difficult challenge of controlling the urge to moisten the lips with saliva. Some people may have a great deal of trouble with this. Lip licking is a habitual thing for many people, and it may not even be related to dryness. In fact, some people do it as a purely nervous habit. When this happens, some individuals get relief by using lip balms with very unpleasant tastes. In addition to being a natural discouragement, this can serve as a reminder for the person each time he licks his lips, and eventually he may be able to reverse his mental conditioning.
When children suffer from lip dermatitis, parents will generally have to be responsible for any treatment. Lip balms are often the only answer in this situation because children will frequently forget not to lick their lips no matter how many times they are told. Many parents will still focus on reminding the children anytime they see them licking their lips, and this can potentially be helpful as well, although it may take some time.