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You’d think that a mouth rash would only affect babies and toddlers, but there are some things that can cause red, irritated skin around your mouth at any age. The causes, however, are usually different, especially because adults use different products that may cause irritation. Prevention is the best way to get rid of a rash around the mouth once and for all, but that first requires some detective work to discern exactly what could be causing your skin to react.

Mouth Rash: Signs and Symptoms

The type of rash you experience depends heavily on the cause. Because it could be the result of clogged, irritated pores, you may experience pus-filled bumps that mimic acne. Others might have a dry, scaly skin, while another type is simple redness that occurs after using certain irritating products. Your skin might feel hot or itchy, but resist the urge to scratch. Scratching might make the rash worse.

Most mouth rashes are localized around the mouth and won’t spread unless it’s the symptom of a more serious issue. According to the American Dental Association, some sexually transmitted diseases will cause a rash in and around the mouth. Herpes, for example, often causes cold sores and lesions around the mouth, as well as a general sense of fatigue and fever. All rashes or changes you may notice should be accessed and diagnosed by your doctor. If your mouth rash comes along with other symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, rashes and lesions in other areas of the body, or sores inside of your mouth, see your doctor right away.

Mouth Rash: Causes of Irritation

A rash around the mouth is known as perioral dermatitis, and it may be the result of a few different things. Your skin’s surface can be sensitive to changes in topical products, so that should be one of the first causes to consider. According to the National Institutes of Health, here are some of the most common causes:

  • Toothpaste
  • An infection
  • Topical steroids, such as hydrocortisone, applied either on purpose or by accident around the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Cosmetics, sunscreen or other skincare products
  • Rosacea
  • Hormonal changes
  • Failing to wash your face regularly

Mouth Rash: Treatment and Prevention

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology notes that the first strategy for treatment is to stop applying any products that could be causing irritation. This is especially true for topical steroids, as well as sunscreen, makeup, or lotion. Your dermatologist might also suggest a topical or oral antibiotic to help combat any infection that could be causing red, scaly patches around your mouth.

When you have a rash, stop using any scented face washes. Instead, swap it for warm water until the rash clears, and then start using a mild scent-free soap or soap alternative. You can ask your dermatologist for suggestions. Make sure to practice good skin hygiene, cleanse nightly, and launder your pillowcases frequently. Try avoiding spicy or acidic foods, since they can get on your skin and may irritate it more.

Luckily, you don’t have to deal with a rash for long: isolate the cause and come up with alternatives to give your skin a break, heal the rash and avoid an outbreak in the future. Remember to take just as good care of the inside of your mouth. Keep up great oral hygiene habits and consider adding a mouthwash to your routine.