Blue Lips is caused due to lack of oxygen. A completely oxygenated blood is red and a healthy person with light skin will have pinkish red color to their lips. However, if there is less oxygen in the blood then the skin starts to have a bluish tinge to it. This change is most noted in areas where the skin is thin. This is the reason why the lips turn blue first whenever there is less blood in the oxygen as the skin here is the thinnest compared to the rest of the body. This is more so in cases of newborns or infants under one year of age.[1,2,3]
It is quite common for a baby to have a purple discoloration and usually is not a cause of concern as it fades away with time. However, if the lips turn completely blue then it is an indicator that something is not right with oxygenation of blood. If the bluish color is limited only to the extremities which is again quite common in infants and babies it is medically termed as peripheral cyanosis. It is generally a physiologic finding and is not a cause of concern. It occurs due to constriction of blood vessels due to low body temperature.[1,2,3]
However, if the skin in areas around the face, lips, and tongue start to become blue or cyanotic then it raises alarm bells and indicates a potentially serious condition and in such situations the baby should be taken to the nearest emergency room.[1,2,3] This article goes in depth about Blue Lips in babies and whether it is serious.
Is Blue Lips In Baby A Serious Condition?
As stated, if the color of the lips in babies is light blue or purplish then it does not indicate anything serious and is not a cause of worry to the parents and caregivers.
However, if the blue lips are accompanied by clear signs of baby having difficulty to breathe then the baby should be taken to the nearest emergency room. It may be a sign that the airway of the baby may be blocked by food or other material.[1,3]
In many cases, the lips of a baby will turn blue after exposure to cold or after having a bath. This is because the body system of the baby is still in the developing stage and it is not able to regulate temperature when compared to older children. Once the body temperature comes back to normal the color of the lips should change.
However, if the lips of a baby do not return back to normal even after the baby warms up or if the parents cannot find a reason for the lips to turn blue then a consultation with a pediatrician is required. There are two primary reasons for a baby to have blue lips. These are termed as acrocyanosis and central cyanosis.
Acrocyanosis involves the extremities and parts of the mouth including the lips. It is quite common in babies and is generally benign in nature. The color of the lips may actually be not blue but will be more purplish. It occurs when the blood vessels of the baby constricts in cold temperature so that blood flow is regulated to the vital organs of the body like the heart, brain, and lungs. Once the body temperature comes back to normal, the skin of the extremities including the lips regains their normal color.[1,3]
Central cyanosis on the other hand is an emergent situation. It indicates something wrong in the mechanism through which oxygen is circulated throughout the body. This causes the lips, face, and tongue to become blue due to lack of enough oxygen. Central cyanosis can be caused due to various reasons including problems with the heart, lungs, or the airways.
Certain congenital abnormalities may also at times cause central cyanosis. Asthma, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis are also certain medical conditions that can cause blue lips in babies. All these conditions need to be diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible time to prevent complications.
When To Go To The Physician For Blue Lips In Babies?
Emergency room needs to be called immediately if a baby has blue lips and is struggling to breathe. It should be noted here that a baby that is choking will not make any noise. Additionally, aside from the lips, if the face and tongue also become blue then also a trip to the physician becomes necessary. Consultation with a physician is also recommended in cases where a definite cause for blue lips in babies is not identified or if the lip color changes too frequently but the overall health of the baby is fine.
What To Do For Blue Lips In Babies?
For babies with acrocyanosis, there is no need for treatment as the condition resolves with time once the body temperature comes back to normal. For babies with central cyanosis, determining the cause of the condition is a must so that treatment plan can be formulated accordingly. For babies with central; cyanosis, it is vital to get an early diagnosis as any delay in treatment can cause potentially serious complications.
In conclusion, it is quite common for a baby to have blue lips especially if it occurs after a bath or when it is cold outside. This happens due to constriction of the blood vessels due to low body temperature. It is quite a benign condition and requires no treatment. It is medically termed as acrocyanosis.[1,2,3]
However if the color of the skin becomes blue in other areas including the lips like the face and tongue then it is a cause of worry as it usually indicates a problem with adequate supply of oxygen in the blood. It is medically termed as central cyanosis. There are a variety of conditions that can cause central cyanosis which have been detailed above.[1,2,3]
Central cyanosis is a medical emergency and an early diagnosis and treatment is an absolute must to prevent any untoward complications. Emergency services should also be contacted if the baby has problems with breathing along with blue lips.[1,2,3]
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