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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | April 15, 2016

That Red Rash Around Your Child’s Mouth: Lip-licking Dermatitis

It seems that all of my children have gone through a stage of having that irritating red rash around their mouths. It looks terrible and drives me crazy. My infant is currently going through a stage of constantly sticking her tongue out and licking the skin below her mouth.

The cause:

While lip licking or biting is a common cause, there are other causes as well. Binky use is a common offender. The saliva gets trapped under the binky and on top of the skin and a rash develops. Finger-sucking is another common offender. The commonality is that saliva is usually the underlying culprit.

The treatment:

The solution is simple, stop the saliva. However, the practicality of doing that is nearly impossible. How do you get a 1 year-old to stop licking her lips? You don’t.

Instead, you do what I do and chase the stupid rash by applying ointments a million times a day to try and get it under control (so it doesn’t get so bad that the skin breaks down and gets infected). Yesterday, I counted. I applied ointment to her face 15 times (and yesterday was a very typical day). I prefer to use Aquaphor. I don’t have to worry if she licks it. It provides a barrier to allow for healing. I have also tried Elidel (a prescription medication) because it isn’t a steroid. Be warned, the medication is expensive. Finally you can try steroid creams (e.g., hydrocortisone). The problem is long-term side effects of using steroids. If the problem is the binky, you may be forced to get rid of it sooner than you were ready in order to get rid of the rash. If the affected child is older, you may be able to give them a pocket sized Aquaphor or lip balm that he/she can put on anytime they have the urge to lip lick.

The good news is that the red rash isn’t forever (although it may feel like it) and it’s nothing that a little Photoshop can’t fix.