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What Causes a Lip or Mouth Rash & How to Find Relief

Rash around the outside of the lips.
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Last updated March 22, 2024

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A lip rash can be an uncomfortable condition associated with redness around the mouth or small blisters on the lip. Common causes for rash around the mouth include irritation like constantly licking your lips, an allergic reaction, and side effect of medication, or an infection or STD. Read below for more related symptoms and treatment options.

6 most common cause(s)

Itchy Rash
Cold Sore
Contact Dermatitis
Basal Cell Carcinoma
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Pityriasis rosea

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Lip and mouth rash symptoms

It's understandable to be frustrated about a lip rash since it's likely visible and difficult to cover up. Your rash may also be painful and affect the surrounding skin or inside of your mouth, and interfere with activities like eating and drinking. Most of the time, the cause of the lip rash is treatable. However, some causes are likely to recur in the future.

Common characteristics of a lip rash

Symptoms that may present with a lip rash include the following.

What causes rashes around the lips and mouth?

The following details may help you better understand your symptoms and if and when you need to see a physician.

Infectious causes

A lip rash may occur due to an infection such as the following.

  • Viral infection: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease and herpes simplex are examples of viral infections that can affect the lips. Both of these cause small blisters that may be painful. In the case of the herpes virus, the infection is chronic and may lead to recurrent outbreaks of blisters.
  • Bacterial or fungal infection: An infection of the corners of the lips, (cheilosis or angular stomatitis) which can be bacterial or fungal, can cause painful cracks in the skin along with crusting and scaling. One type of bacterial infection that is most common in children classically causes crusty yellow patches on or around the lips.
  • Sexually transmitted infection: Syphilis can cause an ulcer on the lip. Depending on the stage of infection, the lip rash may or may not be painful, and a rash on other parts of the body can be present.


Irritants affecting the lips may lead to a lip rash.

  • Dryness: Children who lick their lips excessively can develop a characteristic rash around the lips. Similarly, irritation from cold, dry weather can cause the lips to become chapped.
  • Allergen: Exposure to an allergen such as toothpaste, lipstick or foods can cause redness and cracking of the lips.

Systemic conditions

Some conditions can present with a lip rash, such as the following.

  • Drug reactions: Some types of severe systemic reactions to medications can cause a widespread rash that often involves the lips. In some cases, antibiotics can cause skin reactions in patients.
  • Vitamin deficiency: A lack of some vitamins in the diet or medical conditions that prevent absorption of these vitamins can cause oral symptoms including cracking at the lip corners and mouth ulcers.
  • Kawasaki disease: A rare disease occurring in children, this condition causes lip redness and cracking along with high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash on the trunk.

Cancerous causes

Rarely, a lip rash could be cancerous. Skin cancer of the lip typically occurs on the lower lip and presents as a non-healing blister or ulcer. Bleeding and growth over time may occur.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash and is thought to be due to a type of herpes virus. It is not contagious and is not sexually transmitted. Most susceptible are teenagers and young adults.

Symptoms include a single large scaly patch somewhere on the body. In the next 7 to 14 days similar oval pink patches on the arms, legs, and trunk appear, sometimes in a pattern of lines.

There may also be itching, fatigue, and body aches along with the rash. Anything that raises body temperature, such as exercising or a hot bath, may worsen the rash.

The condition may last for a few weeks and is normally gone after three to four months. Sometimes flat brown spots are left as the rash fades.

Pityriasis rosea can resemble other skin conditions, so getting an accurate diagnosis from a dermatologist is important. Diagnosis is made through blood tests and skin cultures.

Treatment involves topical medications for itching, as well as antiviral and anti-inflammatory medications by mouth to aid healing. Cool baths and reduced exercise will also help.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: rash, itchy rash, curved rash, rough patch with red spots around it

Symptoms that always occur with pityriasis rosea: rash

Symptoms that never occur with pityriasis rosea: blue-colored skin changes, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes

Urgency: Self-treatment

Non-specific skin rash

Nonspecific skin rash means any sort of unexplained outbreak on the skin.

Common causes of rash are contact dermatitis, sun damage, or allergic reaction. However, many rashes are a symptom of disease and should not be ignored.

Nonspecific rashes have widely varied symptoms:

  • May be flat and smooth; slightly raised or with swollen welts; clean and dry; or blistered and oozing.
  • May spread widely over the body, or be confined to one site.
  • May appear after eating certain foods; or after exposure to certain plants or to insect stings or bites.
  • Other symptoms may be present, including pain anywhere in the body; nausea; vomiting; fever; headache; or abdominal pain and upset.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination to determine the exact type, location, and history of the rash, along with any other symptoms that may be present.

Those symptoms will be investigated with blood tests or imaging. Skin swabs may be taken and tested. After the process has ruled out as many causes as possible, a course of treatment can be determined.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific skin rash: rash

Urgency: Wait and watch

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis means a skin reaction that is caused by directly touching an irritating substance, and not by an infectious agent such as a bacteria or virus.

Common causes are soap, bleach, cleaning agents, chemicals, and even water. Almost any substance can cause it with prolonged exposure.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious.

Anyone who works with an irritating substance can contract the condition. Mechanics, beauticians, housekeepers, restaurant workers, and health care providers are all susceptible.

Symptoms include skin that feels swollen, stiff, and dry, and becomes cracked and blistered with painful open sores.

A medical provider can give the best advice on how to heal the skin and avoid further irritation. Self-treatment can make the problem worse if the wrong creams or ointments are used.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, to find out what substances the patient comes into contact with, and through physical examination of the damaged skin.

Treatment involves avoiding the irritating substance if possible. Otherwise, the person can use petroleum jelly on the hands underneath cotton and then rubber gloves.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with well-defined border, itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, painful rash, red rash

Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis: rash with well-defined border

Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis: fever, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes, blue-colored skin changes

Urgency: Self-treatment

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, dermatitis, atopic eczema, or AD, is a chronic skin condition with an itchy rash.

AD is not contagious. It is caused by a genetic condition that affects the skin's ability to protect itself from bacteria and allergens.

AD is most often seen in infants and young children. Most susceptible are those with a family history of AD, asthma, or hay fever.

Infants will have a dry, scaly, itchy rash on the scalp, forehead, and cheeks. Older children will have the rash in the creases of elbows, knees, and buttocks.

Without treatment, a child may have trouble sleeping due to the intense itching. Constant scratching may cause skin infections and the skin may turn thickened and leathery.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, patient history, and allergen skin tests.

AD cannot be cured, but can be controlled through prescribed medications, skin care, stress management, and treatment of food allergies. Those with AD often have allergies to milk, nuts, and shellfish. Keeping the skin clean and moisturized helps prevent flareups.

Cold sore

A cold sore, also called a fever blister or herpes, is actually a collection of tiny, fluid-filled, crusted blisters.

Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2. The sores are highly contagious through direct contact, such as kissing or oral sex, even when no sore is visible.

Most susceptible are young adults who are sexually active, though anyone can be infected. The virus can also survive on shared towels, eating utensils, etc.

Symptoms include a tingling or burning sensation around the lips, nose, or cheeks a day or so before the blisters appear. There may also be fever, sore throat, and other flu-like symptoms.

The herpes simplex virus cannot be cured, but cold sores can be managed under medical supervision to ease discomfort and help prevent transmission or complications.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

The blisters usually heal within two to four weeks, but the virus remains dormant within the body and can recur at any time. Antiviral creams or pills are sometimes used to help the healing process.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common kind of skin cancer. It can develop almost anywhere on the body. It appears as abnormal spots or bumps on the skin. These bumps are often pink, red, or skin-colored and sometimes have a shiny surface. The main risk factor for developing this condition is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sun exposure and tanning beds are both sources of UV radiation. People with a history of sunburns, previous skin cancer, and a weakened immune system are at higher risk for this condition.

Most cases of BCC can be easily treated because they grow slowly. Though if not treated, it can spread inside the body. Your provider will do a skin exam and possibly skin sample test, known as a biopsy. Treatment will depend on where the cancer is, its size, and your medical history. Some treatment options include cutting out the bump, freezing it, or using medicated skin cream.

Non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation)

Nonspecific dermatitis, or contact dermatitis, simply means inflammation of the skin from many different causes.

Most nonspecific dermatitis is caused by skin contact with a substance that provokes a reaction, which could be anything from plants to soap to jewelry to fabrics. Some may be due to an autoimmune condition, where the body's immune system attacks itself.

Risk factors include a family or personal history of allergies, asthma, or other condition which weakens the immune system; or constant contact with metals, plant life, or chemicals.

Symptoms commonly include red, swollen skin rash with itching, blistering, or oozing, which may become painful and infected.

Dermatitis itself is not contagious but can interfere with quality of life. A medical provider can help with managing the symptoms.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes skin biopsy and patch testing.

Treatment involves using protective measures if the substances cannot be avoided; making nutritional improvements to strengthen the immune system; using corticosteroid or other creams; and phototherapy.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: red rash, itchy rash, painful rash

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation): red rash

Urgency: Self-treatment

Lip and mouth rash treatment and relief

Most causes of lip rash do not require urgent evaluation. However, the presence of other symptoms may indicate that the lip rash is due to a severe medical condition such as a drug reaction.

At-home treatments

Some at-home treatments that may help relieve lip rash include the following.

  • Protect your lips: To prevent a rash associated with dryness, avoid licking your lips and cover the lips when outdoors in cold weather.
  • Limit irritants: Avoid applying lipsticks and other products to the lips.
  • Pain medication: If the rash is painful, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help.
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When to see a doctor

In some cases, even if emergency treatment isn't necessary, you may need medical evaluation and treatment. Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You have a lip rash that persists or grows over time
  • The lip rash is causing significant pain or itching
  • The rash keeps going away but then recurring
  • You have had sexual contact with someone who may have syphilis
  • You also have a rash on other parts of the face
  • You or a child with a lip rash have had contact with someone known to have impetigo

Medical treatments

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following treatments, depending on the cause of your lip rash:

  • Antibiotic or antifungal ointment: This can treat any infection.
  • Antiviral medication: Although herpes infection typically resolves on its own, you may be prescribed an antiviral medication as a preventative measure if you are suffering from frequent outbreaks.
  • Supplements: Vitamin supplementation or treatment for a condition preventing vitamin absorption can address lip rash if a nutritional deficiency is to blame.
  • Penicillin: This is used to treat syphilis.

When it is an emergency

You should seek treatment without delay if:

  • You have systemic symptoms: Such as fever and fatigue
  • You have a rapidly developing rash over other parts of the body
  • You have large areas of skin peeling off
  • You are concerned about a child who has had a fever for several days: Especially if he or she has swollen lymph nodes, or a rash on the hands in addition to the lips.
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FAQs about lip rash

What's the difference between a lip rash and a cold sore?

A rash around the mouth can be due to a number of conditions. Cold sores are one example of a lip rash caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). Other examples include impetigo, a bacterial infection characterized by honey-crusted lesions, and thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth that can extend to the lips.

Does a lip rash mean I have an STD?

Not necessarily. Cold sores are one type of lip rash caused by HSV, which can transmit through sexual contact or shared saliva. These HSV infections are most contagious when there are visible sores. Other causes of lip rash such as impetigo and thrush are not transmitted sexually.

Is it normal for my child to develop a lip rash while teething?

Yes. Some children will develop lip rash while teething due to the increased production of saliva, which can then irritate the skin. This process can be reduced by regularly wiping the saliva from your child's face with a soft cloth.

Why won't my lip rash go away?

You could have a rash on your lips for a number of reasons including HSV, impetigo (a bacterial infection), thrush (a yeast infection), or contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction). You should consult a physician to establish a diagnosis and receive treatment.

Can allergies cause a lip rash?

Absolutely! An allergic reaction can cause a rash on your lips just like it can in other locations on your body. If you notice a rash consistently after the application of certain lip cosmetics or dental products, you should avoid those products as they may be the cause of your rash.

Questions your doctor may ask about lip rash

  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Are there bumps on your rash?
  • What color is the skin change?
  • Is your rash raised or rough when you run your hand over the area of skin?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Hear what 1 other is saying
Once your story receives approval from our editors, it will exist on Buoy as a helpful resource for others who may experience something similar.
The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Lip rashPosted February 4, 2024 by A.
I have a lip rash and it escalated after applying allergex cream that i was given to apply at a Pharmacy
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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  2. Devani A, Barankin B. Answer: Can you identify this condition? Canadian Family Physician. 2007;53(6):1022-3. NCBI Link
  3. Red rash around your mouth could be perioral dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology. AAD Link
  4. Srivastava R, Bihari M, Bhuvan J, Saad A. Fixed drug eruptions with intraoral presentation. Indian Journal of Dentistry. 2015;6(2):103-6. NCBI Link
  5. Kawasaki disease. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Published 2009. NORD Link