Blue skin or lips (cyanosis)

Blue skin or lips need to be checked urgently in hospital. See a GP if you have blue fingers or toes.

Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child's:

  • lips, tongue, face or skin suddenly turn blue/grey (or gums and round the eyes in darker skin)
  • breathing becomes difficult
  • chest hurts

These are signs of a serious medical problem.

See a GP if you or your child's:

  • fingers, toes, hands or feet gradually turn blue

This could be the sign of a blood circulation problem.

Causes of cyanosis

Blue lips, skin, tongue (central cyanosis)

Blue or blue/grey skin on the face or over most of the body is usually a sign there's not enough oxygen in the blood because of a problem with the:

  • lungs – like asthma or pnuemonia
  • airway – choking, or croup
  • heart
  • seizures (fits) that last a long time

Blue hands, feet, limbs (peripheral cyanosis)

The limbs will also usually feel cold.

It happens when blood circulation is poor because of:

  • Raynaud's phenomenon – where the blood supply to the fingers and toes becomes temporarily reduced
  • an artery problem which affects the blood supply to the legs
  • beta-blockers, a medicine used to treat high blood pressure
  • a blood clot which stops the blood supply to or from a limb

Sometimes it can also be caused by:

  • being in cold air or water
  • being at high altitude

Treatment for cyanosis

Cyanosis is a symptom of many different conditions.

Treatment depends on the cause.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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