Toddler gets blue lips when very active. Is this a problem?
March 27, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Toddler gets blue lips when very active. Is this a problem?

My ~2 year old son is very active and seems quite healthy. But when he is being very active (running around, horseplay, etc.) indoors or out his lips turn a little blue, almost like when he is in a cold swimming pool. The rest of him stays a relatively normal colour. His energy level remains high throughout. Should I be worried?

His lips are usually a normal pink colour. In case it's important, it's still pretty cool around here, and the house isn't very warm (~19 dec C).

I'm concerned it could be a circulation problem, but since his energy level is high I don't think that's it. Maybe he's not breathing enough because he's too "busy" playing...?
posted by Simon Barclay to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
And yes, I will talk to his doctor about it too.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:07 PM on March 27, 2010

The more he runs around, the more oxygen he uses. So if he has some kind of condition (with heart, lungs, circulation, or something else) that limits his ability to get oxygen to the tissues, it'll show up more when he's very active. Blue lips is definitely a sign of that. I'd say definitely talk to a doctor about it, and preferably very soon.
posted by vytae at 6:20 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

YES! I knew a kid like that when I was young and he ended up having some major surgery (I wish I could remember what that surgery was, sorry).
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2010

Please get him in to see a doctor this week. This is definitely not the kind of thing you want to ignore or blow off.
posted by drpynchon at 6:57 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blue anything in a toddler = immediate medical doctor consult. Now! Whether it's a weekend, or a weekday. ER, if you haven't planned better.

For Chrissake, the kid probably can't tell you he is running out of air.
posted by paulsc at 7:17 PM on March 27, 2010

It can be a sign of something called cyanosis which is a sign of not enough oxygen in the blood. A trip to a doctor is important as it can be caused by congenital heart defects among other things.
posted by cecic at 7:19 PM on March 27, 2010

Yeah, I am not a doctor, and this is strictly anecdotal, but I had a childhood friend who had a heart defect. We were all told to make sure if her lips ever turned blue we needed to make sure she stopped whatever she was doing and someone was sent to go get her mother. The good news is she went on to have a very normal childhood and young adulthood, but if I were you I would try to get a referral to a cardiologist as soon as possible.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:01 PM on March 27, 2010

Sounds like a patent foramen ovale:

A patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a congenital (present at birth) heart defect. It occurs when the hole between the two upper chambers of the heart, which usually closes shortly after birth, never fully closes...

Some children or adults with PFO will experience a bluish tinge to the skin. This is caused by a lack of oxygenated blood being pumped throughout the body. The blue skin will commonly present in the lips,....

posted by jamjam at 8:03 PM on March 27, 2010

One very important piece of advice that's being over looked here: Don't Panic. It might be cyanosis. It might be a defect of the heart. It might be his lips are cold. I'm no expert, but I come from a long line of worriers, and people in my family have had symptoms of many diseases but only had the usual number. Symptoms just indicate what to look for; they aren't proof.

I agree with others get to a doctor asap, call a nurse if you have that option.

But Don't Panic.

(Really, there are more things to worry about than will ever actually happen.)
posted by Some1 at 8:18 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't panic, but this is definitely a "See a Doctor Soon" sort of thing. You want to rule out things like a PVO (as jamjam noted). Late cyanosis presents in kids (rather than infants), and may be due to a defect in one of the septa that separate the sides of the heart or PFO, causing abnormal flow of oxygenated blood from the left side of the heart, into the right side of the heart. The net effect of this is that if it goes uncorrected, it can cause problems on the right-sided heart circuit, including pulmonary hypertension (bad) and a reversal of the shunt (very bad).
posted by honeybee413 at 8:32 PM on March 27, 2010

I have a niece who had something similar. She was checked by her doctor and she has a slight heart defect, but nothing of consideration. She didn't need surgery, and she's now 8 years old and healthy.
posted by clearlydemon at 9:11 PM on March 27, 2010

I had this when I was a child; my blue lips were caused by a congenital heart defect, a bicuspid aortic valve, which was operated on when I was 37. I'm nthing the "get to a doctor" and "don't panic" -- I never felt bad when my lips went blue, it was just a way for my body to signal to stop. It could be this, something else, but it is better to know. Good luck!!
posted by bwonder2 at 1:25 AM on March 28, 2010

See a doctor! Everything everyone has said about cyanosis - it can be very serious, it might not be.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:27 AM on March 28, 2010

Thanks everyone, I'm going to move up his Dr.'s appointment.

Is it also possible there's a less scary reason why this is happening?
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:53 AM on March 28, 2010

A less scary reason might be asthma, though usually there's also other symptoms like wheezing, coughing or clearing the throat, or getting flushed (see link). It's less scary than a heart defect but asthma is still serious, and lips turning blue is very serious.

In general I've been advised during an asthma attack that if my lips go blue, to take my short-acting inhaler again and immediately go to emergency. See also this NLM link on asthma.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 9:42 AM on March 28, 2010

Just thinking about you and your boy ... hope all is well.
posted by palliser at 7:30 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your concern!

We took him to the doctor a few days ago, and he said that as long as only the lips turn blue when that happens (and not his fingernails or his tongue), it's very unlikely to be something serious. The doc also listened to his heart, and said it sounds fine. Coincidentally, we were roughhousing today, and we noticed his lips were a little blue, so we stopped and checked his finernails and tongue: perfectly pink.

Nonetheless, he's referring us to a pediatric cardiovascular specialist, just to be sure. But we're a lot less worried than we were a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:53 PM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Glad to hear it -- thanks for the update!
posted by palliser at 6:53 PM on April 8, 2010

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