Tingling Lips: Possible Causes and When to See a Doctor

Medically Reviewed By Adam Bernstein, MD, ScD

Tingling lips, a feeling of “pins and needles” in your lips, can have temporary causes like allergic reactions to food, hyperventilation, or cold sores. Some underlying chronic conditions can also cause lip tingling. In some cases, tingling lips can be a sign of a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment. Contact a doctor if you experience numbness or tingling in your lips so you can get an accurate diagnosis.

This article discusses some possible causes of tingling lips, as well as related symptoms and when to contact a doctor.

Allergic reaction to food

Close-up of person with red hair blowing and lips blowing or whistling
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Lip tingling or itching around the lips and mouth can be symptoms Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of a food allergy called oral allergy syndrome. This is due to an immune response to pollen and proteins found in certain foods.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology lists foods that often contain these allergens, including:

  • foods with grass pollen
    • peach
    • watermelon
    • tomato
    • white potato
    • orange
  • foods with birch pollen
    • hazelnut
    • kiwi
    • cherry
    • celery
    • plum
  • foods with ragweed pollen
    • zucchini
    • melons
    • banana
    • cucumber
    • white potato

If you have consumed any of these foods and experience tingling lips, contact a doctor to determine if you may have oral allergy syndrome.

Learn more about food allergy symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Additional symptoms

Your specific symptoms and the extent of your reaction also may vary based on your sensitivity and the quantity of the trigger food you consume.

In addition to mouth tingling, symptoms of other types of food allergy can include Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source :

  • rash
  • flushed skin
  • hives
  • swelling of your tongue, lips, or face
  • wheezing or coughing

In severe cases, these symptoms can progress to anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include:

Treatment

Treatment for a food allergy focuses primarily on avoiding further exposure to the trigger food. In some cases, cooking the food can alter the proteins so they no longer trigger an immune reaction.

If you receive a diagnosis for a severe food allergy, your doctor will likely prescribe injectable epinephrine, such as an EpiPen, in case of accidental exposure. Learn how to administer the medication in an emergency and teach loved ones how to do it as well. Carry your injectable epinephrine with you at all times.

Learn when and how to use an EpiPen for anaphylaxis.

Cold sore

A feeling of tingling in your lip may be the first sign of a cold sore.

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters of herpes labialis, develop on the lips and mouth due to infection from the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). These sores may come and go, and the frequency of symptom outbreaks varies Trusted Source World Health Organization Highly respected international organization Go to source from person to person.

Additional symptoms

Lip tingling and numbness may be accompanied by other cold sore symptoms on the lips and mouth, including:

  • itching
  • burning
  • fluid-filled blisters
  • crusting or scabbing of skin
  • redness
  • swelling

Treatment

There is no cure for HSV-1. However, medications can help manage cold sore outbreaks and relieve symptoms.

These include over-the-counter topical creams or ointments that can help shorten your healing time and relieve pain.

If you have recurring cold sores, your doctor may recommend Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source prescription antiviral medications to reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Trusted Source National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Governmental authority Go to source recommends contacting a doctor if you experience:

  • a cold sore that lasts longer than a few weeks
  • a high fever
  • eye irritation

Learn more about treatment for cold sores.

Nerve damage

Nerve damage, or neuropathy, can cause tingling or numbness in areas throughout the body, including the lips.

Conditions that can cause nerve damage include:

Learn more about risk factors for neuropathy.

Additional symptoms

Each of these conditions may have a variety of additional symptoms. Generally, symptoms related to neuropathy include:

Treatment

Treatment for nerve damage depends on the specific cause. In some cases, nerve damage is permanent and treatment focuses on preventing further damage.

Your doctor will discuss your specific treatment options with you in the context of your symptoms and individual medical history.

Hyperventilation

Tingling lips can occur Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source with hyperventilation, which is rapid or deep breathing that causes a feeling of being unable to catch your breath.

Hyperventilation can be a symptom of anxiety or panic attacks. The NHS, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, lists tingling lips as a symptom of a panic attack.

Additional symptoms

In addition to tingling in the lips, hyperventilation may occur with symptoms including:

Treatment

Treatment for hyperventilation includes addressing symptoms as they are happening and managing any chronic conditions that may be causing hyperventilation.

These treatments may include:

  • changing breathing patterns, such as pursing your lips when you breathe
  • medications to treat anxiety, panic disorder, or other anxiety disorders
  • psychological counseling, as part of a treatment plan for anxiety disorders

Food poisoning from seafood

Lip tingling and numbness can be a symptom of food poisoning from certain types of seafood.

Certain types of fish and seafood can contain toxins, even after proper cooking. This is due to contamination from the foods these types of fish eat as part of their natural diet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists fish and seafood types that have a high risk of causing foodborne illness. They include:

  • any fish that has not been properly refrigerated
  • shellfish
    • mussels
    • clams
    • scallops
    • lobster
    • oysters
    • shrimp
  • coral reef fish
    • barracuda
    • moray eel
    • grouper
    • sea bass

Additional symptoms

The CDC lists other symptoms of food poisoning, including:

Seek immediate medical care if you experience any symptoms of food poisoning, particularly if you are traveling.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which small blood vessels contract, reducing blood flow to certain areas of the body. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, this can cause numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, nose, chin, and lips.

Symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon can be triggered by cold temperatures or as a reaction to stress.

Additional symptoms

Tingling and numbness with Raynaud’s phenomenon can occur with other symptoms including:

  • white or blue coloring in the affected area in people with light-toned skin
  • pale fingertips in people with dark-toned skin
  • burning sensation
  • pain
  • stiffness in the affected area

Treatment

For most people with Raynaud’s phenomenon, avoiding cold temperatures can prevent attacks and keep symptoms under control. However, in some cases, medical treatments may be necessary.

If your symptoms are due to an underlying condition, treatment will focus on addressing the root cause. To help manage symptoms, your doctor may recommend medications to help improve blood flow.

Certain medications can also cause symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon or make existing symptoms worse. As a result, your doctor may change or stop other prescription medications you are taking.

In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to block nerves related to the affected blood vessels.

Learn more about Raynaud’s phenomenon.

When to contact a doctor

Because tingling lips may be an indicator of a serious health condition, it’s a good idea to contact a doctor if you experience lip tingling. They can accurately diagnose the cause and help you find effective treatment.

Seek urgent care if you experience tingling in your lips that:

  • is followed by an outbreak of an infection, such as cold sores or shingles
  • does not go away with treatment for the condition causing it
  • becomes worse over time
  • occurs with other symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as swelling or hives
  • occurs with muscle symptoms, such as weakness or loss of balance
  • occurs with symptoms of food poisoning, such as nausea or vomiting

Summary

Lip tingling can result from temporary conditions such as an allergic reaction to food, cold sores, or hyperventilation. Tingling in the lips can also be a symptom of nerve damage caused by some chronic conditions, such as diabetes or atherosclerosis.

Contact a doctor if you experience tingling lips so you can get an accurate diagnosis for the cause and begin an effective treatment plan.

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Medical Reviewer: Adam Bernstein, MD, ScD
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 28
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