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Baby's Chapped Lips: Causes, Home Remedies And Prevention

Chapped lips are a common occurrence during winters, especially in places with low humidity. Babies can also get dry lips if they tend to lick them a lot. Adults tend to use a ChapStick or a lip balm to alleviate the dryness of lips. But are they safe for a baby?

How can parents deal with chapped lips in babies? Read this MomJunction post about chapped lips in babies, its causes, remedies, and how you can prevent the condition.

What Causes Chapped Lips In Babies?

Common reasons behind dry and chapped lips in babies include:

  1. Dry weather, which is the most common cause of chapped lips among babies. The lips crack and become hard during winters or whenever there is a drop in the humidity. If you live in a place with low humidity, then the baby can have chapped lips any time of the year. Dry weather rid the lips of moisture, thus leading to chapping.
  1. Prolonged exposure to wind and sun can also cause the lips to lose their moisture, resulting in dryness (1).  One such scenario is when the baby spends too much time at the beach.
  1. Frequent lip-licking may cause the lips to lose moisture. The saliva evaporates rapidly, leaving the lips stretched and dry (2).
  1. Dry and cracked lips are among the many signs of dehydration in babies (3). Other severe symptoms of dehydration, such as lethargy and weakness, are bound to get your attention before chapped lips.
  1. Kawasaki disease is a rare form of vasculitis, which is an inflammation of the blood vessels. It mostly affects infants and even newborns. One of the several symptoms of the disease is red, cracked, and dry lips (4).  Infants with Kawaski disease almost always have high fever and irritability which are hard to miss. The disease is rare, and the reason behind it is unknown.
  1. Nutritional deficiency: Sometimes, chapped lips could indicate a deficiency of a nutrient, such as vitamin-A. This is uncommon but possible to happen in babies. This is more likely to be the cause in cases of chronic lip chapping. In case your baby is suffering from chronic lip chapping, it is wise to consult a pediatrician to address any nutritional deficiency.

If your baby has other severe symptoms, then it is best to take them to a doctor. Chapped lips are usually a result of benign reasons than acute illnesses and can be dealt with right at home, with a few safe solutions.

Home Remedies For A Baby’s Chapped Lips

If your baby is otherwise healthy, then the following are the best and safest methods to treat chapped lips in babies:

  1. Breast milk: Breast milk is rich in water and fats, which can help hydrate the baby’s dry lips. Store a tiny quantity of expressed breast milk to apply on the baby’s lips. Dip your clean finger in the milk and apply a thin layer on the baby’s lips at least 2-3 times every hour.
  1. Infant formula: Make a thick paste of infant formula and store it to treat the baby’s chapped lips. The fat from formula and the added water will help soothe chapped lips. Apply the formula paste with a clean finger several times in an hour, depending on the severity of the chapped lips.
  1. Pediatric petroleum jelly: Baby petroleum jellies are not regulated by the FDA  (6). So, the use of petroleum jelly for relieving chapping should be done under pediatric guidance.
  1. Baby-safe lip balms: Baby-safe lip balms are available over the counter. Their use, however, should be done under pediatric guidance. Discuss the safe ingredients that you must look for in the balm. For babies, lip balms made of natural ingredients are a better choice.
  1. Hydration: As drying and chapping of lips could happen due to dehydration, keeping your baby hydrated is essential  (7). For babies below six months of age, exclusive breastfeeding is a must. Whereas, for babies over six months of age, fluid intake from various sources like thick soups and fruit and vegetable purees could ensure hydration.

Breast milk and formula are the best remedial methods for chapped lips since they do not pose a health risk when licked or swallowed by the baby. Treatment of underlying conditions, such as dehydration, will be symptomatic while treatment for Kawasaki disease involves the use of several medicines.

What Not To Apply On The Baby’s Chapped Lips?

Coconut has emollient properties. Hence its use to provide some relief from chapped lips is common  (8). However, you should not apply baby oil, lotions, and even natural remedies such as coconut oil without pediatric consultation, as they may cause problems when the baby ingests them.

Lanolin is quite commonly used by breastfeeding mothers for sore nipples  (9). While it is safe to breastfeed with lanolin, it might cause poisoning when ingested  (10). Thus, its use must be done under pediatric guidance only.

When To See A Doctor?

Usually, chapped lips are not a matter of concern. However, if you see any of these other symptoms associated with chapped lips, consult a pediatrician.

  • Sore, red, and dry lips
  • Chronic chapping that is increasing with time
  • Bleeding lips
  • Baby is unable to feed
  • Baby is fussy and cranky

Some causes, such as dehydration or nutritional deficiency, could be causing the above-mentioned symptoms. These need to be addressed promptly to avoid any complications further.

How To Prevent Chapped Lips In Babies?

Maintaining a regular feeding schedule allows your baby’s lips to stay hydrated by formula and breast milk. Another way to prevent chapped lips is by keeping adequate ambient humidity. Cool-mist humidifiers help you achieve it.

Install a cool-mist humidifier in your baby’s room, especially during the dry seasons, when there is a rapid drop in water vapor content. Pediatricians recommend the use of a cool-mist humidifier and ask to stay away from hot-mist/steam humidifiers that increase the chances of burn  (11). Sufficient humidity means well-hydrated and smooth lips.

Chapped lips in babies are seldom a problem unless caused by a severe illness. Prevention is easy since all you will need is breast milk and formula that are readily available at home. Once your baby grows older and steps into childhood, you may be able to use several lip care products that are safe for use among children.

Have you had to deal with chapped lips in your baby? Do share your experience in the comment section below.

References:

1. Cracked or Dry Skin; Seattle Children’s Hospital
2. Cracked or Dry Skin; Symptom viewer; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Gastroenteritis And Your Child; University of Mississippi
4. Kawasaki Disease; Cedars-Sinai Hospital
5. Vitamin A deficiency; DermNet NZ
6. BABY PETROLEUM- white petroleum jelly; National Institute of Health
7. Sore or dry lips; NHS, UK
8. Sandeep R. Varma et al.; In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2018)
9. Sore Nipples; University of Michigan
10. Lanolin poisoning; U.S. National Library of Medicine
11. Caring for Your Child’s Cold or Flu; American Academy of Pediatrics

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