This article was updated on September 2, 2021.
This COVID-19 symptom may surprise you with its subtlety. If your lips are feeling scaly or dry, it could be a symptom of the coronavirus, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.
Breaking down this new symptom
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that in addition to the main symptoms of fever and cough listed by Public Health England and other health agencies, people with the virus can also develop symptoms on their skin,” the study reported.
While it is not listed as an official symptom on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, reports from China and Europe have said that the skin can be affected in up to 20% of coronavirus cases. Eatthis.com also reported that a survey revealed 75% of respondents experienced cracked or dry lips as a symptom of COVID-19.
This makes sense since viruses, such as coronavirus, often dehydrate the body which can lead to dry lips.
“This virus triggers a lot of immune reactions so it is no surprise that the skin is involved,” the study continued. “Lips may feel sore and can become dry and scaly as they recover. Soreness inside the mouth can also occur.”
Should you worry if you have dry lips?
However, just because you have dry, chapped lips doesn’t mean you should instantly fear you contracted coronavirus. Dry lips are a very common problem associated with many things, not just viruses. Healthline reported that you may experience dry or chapped lips due to things like weather, excessive licking of the lips, or even certain medications. Especially with colder weather approaching, you can expect that you may experience drier, chapped lips due to the change in the climate.
For most people, you can treat this by applying a lip balm throughout the day, drinking lots of water, and even using a humidifier in your room at night. You should also try and cover your lips when going out into cold and windy weather. If you still experience severely cracked and dry lips after all that, you may want to consult a dermatologist.
Other recent studies suggest that there may be another culprit when it comes to dry lips and mouth, however: wearing a mask for long periods of time.
A study of healthcare professionals revealed that 53% reported dry mouth and 66% reported feelings of dehydration. This is likely due to working long hours with personal protective equipment (PPE) on, making them less likely to hydrate throughout the day.
“What does all of this mean to those of us in the trenches? We’re providing oral care to others, while our risk for caries, erosion, and fungal infections has risen exponentially since March 2020,” Anne Nugent Guignon, MPH, RDH, CSP said. “The substantial risk of dry mouth syndrome is now a documented condition resulting from multiple side effects of using respiratory PPE for protracted periods of time.”