Created on: March 09, 2008 Last Updated: November 15, 2008
Lips can swell for many reasons, one of which is allergic reaction. Swollen lips from allergies usually start with a tingling in the lips, followed by the sensation of feeling the lips steadily swell over the next few hours. The swelling may remain at its worst for several hours before gradually easing, disappearing altogether after perhaps 12-24 hours.
A range of allergens can cause swollen lips, including from food, insect stings and bites, medications, contact with certain products, dust, pollen, infectious diseases, bacteria, pollution, and contaminants. A food allergy is the most common type of allergy and is where the immune system is upset after a particular food. Various foods can cause the lips to swell in people susceptible to allergies, although the most common is probably shellfish. An insect sting by a bee, wasp, hornet or ant, or by a biting insect such as a mosquito, bug or tic, to the lips or nearby areas can set up an allergic reaction and cause swollen lips. Almost any medication can bring on an allergic reaction, although antibiotics, penicillin, and aspirin are noted for producing allergies. This usually involves skin rashes or hives but can also result in swollen lips, tongue and face.
Allergic reactions such as swollen lips can occur by coming into contact with other allergens. This can include not only things like dust, pollen, animal fur, and grass, but also blowing up a balloon, touching your face with a rubber glove, contact with other latex products, and after a visit to the dentist or the hairdresser. Lip swelling can result from contact with mattresses or pillows if they are made of a material that causes local irritation. People who sleep on their sides or front are more at risk. Any allergic reaction, including lip swelling, can be hereditary too.
Swollen lips are the most common symptom of a condition called angioedema, which is usually the result of an allergy. "Angio" means blood vessels and "edema" is swelling. The blood vessels leak fluid which causes a local build up in the tissues under the skin resulting in swelling. The condition can also cause swelling in the hands and elsewhere. Urticaria may develop too.
The best way to cope with swollen lips is to take antihistamines and try to isolate the cause. If you suspect the problem is food, record what you eat and any reactions in a diary. Determine the suspect foods and avoid them one at a time until you isolate the culprit. Look at food labels in the supermarket to make sure
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