Prevent a Toddler's Lips From Getting Chapped

5 Easy Tips to Protect Them From the Elements

Mother applying lip balm to her daughter
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When it comes to keeping your child safe from the elements, the lips can easily be overlooked. That is, until they become chapped and sore. The skin of the lips is thinner than that of other areas of the body, making it especially vulnerable to cold, dry air (indoor and out), wind, and sun.

Add in a toddler's drooling, thumb sucking, or pacifier use and you have a recipe for pink, raw, and cracked skin around the mouth. The good news is you can help prevent chapped lips with a few easy tips.

Protecting Little Lips

While uncomfortable and not pretty, chapped lips are not typically harmful. However, if your child's cracked lips are bleeding or accompanied by a fever lasting more than five days, consult your pediatrician.

To help prevent and heal chapping, try to wipe your tot's mouth dry throughout the day and after meals and snacks. Beyond that, here are other ways to keep your little one's lips healthy.

  • Keep hydrated. Children ages 1 to 3 need at least 5.5 cups of fluid each day, but it doesn't all need to be water. Healthy beverages, such as milk and fruit juice, and foods with a high moisture content, like watermelon and soup, count toward the daily total. (A note about juice: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises limiting toddler juice consumption to 4 ounces a day, and only serving pasteurized juice with no added sugar.)
  • Humidify your home. If the air inside your home is dry, consider using a humidifier in the areas where your toddler sleeps and plays. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions about cleaning the humidifier to prevent bacteria and mold, and keep the humidifier out of children's reach.
  • Stop lip licking. When lips are rough and dry, the natural reaction is to to try to moisten them with your tongue. However, this is counterproductive as the constant cycle of wetting lips then airing dry leads to chapping. If you catch your child licking her lips, remind her to stop. You can also take steps to remove the urge to lick by gently buffing lips with a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush when they get flaky.
  • Slick on the lip balm. Don't wait for the first signs of chapping to a petroleum-based or beeswax-based lip balm, which is safe to use on toddlers and will seal in moisture and protect lips from exposure to the elements. Pediatricians advice using a lip balm with sunscreen because lips are particularly prone to damage from UV rays. Apply to the area directly around the lips and any areas that are prone to chapping.
  • Soothe sore smackers. If despite your best efforts your little one's lips become dry, flaky, chapped, and sore, smooth on a medicated balm or ointment—and then seal them with a kiss.
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