Montana Public Radio

How Kids Can Deal With Chapped Lips: Dr. Starbuck Explains

May 9, 2018

Hi! I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician. I’m here today with tips for kids with chapped lips.

I bet most of the kids listening right now have had chapped lips. It’s when your lips are dry, flaky, rough and cracked. They can bleed and scab.

When I was a kid, my youngest brother had chapped lips all the time. He was too little to understand words very well and he thought we said "chipped." He would walk around and say, "My lips are chipped, my lips are chipped. They hurt."

In some ways he was right. His lips were chipped. They had cracks and little holes where he had pulled off dead skin, even though my parents told him not to. And yes, chapped, or chipped, lips can hurt. The correct word is chapped. It’s spelled C–H-A-P-P-E-D. Chapped means your lips are cracked, rough or ore. This can be because of exposure to something harsh, like cold weather or wind. It can also be from working with something coarse. For example, cement, dirt or strong soap. Lots of body parts can get chapped; your lips, your hands, your knees or your wrists.

Do you know anyone who is a dogsled musher or a mountain climber? Their lips and faces are often chapped from spending long hours outside in cold, dry and windy weather. I think it’s a good idea to check your lips occasionally to see if they are getting chapped. That way you can do something before they get really bad.

To check your lips, do this little test. Take the tip of your finger and gently rub it up and down the back of the same finger on your other hand. Notice how your skin feels. It should be soft and smooth with a few little bumps where your knuckles are. Then gently rub your finger over your lips. The skin should feel the same: smooth and soft with a few ups and downs where your lips bend. If the skin of your lips feels rough or hard, your lips are starting to chap and it’s time to fix that.

First, put a salve, an oily goop that you rub on to your skin, or lip balm on your lips. That’s like putting a little coat on your lips. It will feel good and protect them from chapping or cracking from the wind or cold.

You also have to protect your lips from the inside out, and that’s where water is very important. When you don’t get enough water, especially if you don’t get enough water for several days in a row, your lips will get chapped. Chapped lips can be a sign of dehydration, which means not enough water.

Third, check if you are allergic to something. Ask your parents to help you figure this out by changing things you put on or near your mouth. You could be allergic to food, soap, bubble bath or lotion. Some kids can even be allergic to the lip balm they are using, especially if it contains a fragrance or a strong sunblock.

Finally, do not lick your lips. When you lick your lips, saliva gets on them and it evaporates. This dries out your skin. Licking your lips might feel good for a minute but your lips will become chapped. If you are a lip licker, ask your parents to get you a plain lip balm or salve. The ones that taste like cherry, mango or orange are sometimes so good you’ll want to lick them right off!

Chapped lips can be annoying and painful. But good news, there is a lot you can do to help them heal.