Sometimes you may wake up with a swollen, puffy face. This may happen as a result of pressure being placed on the face while sleeping. However, a swollen, puffy face can also arise from a facial injury or indicate an underlying medical condition.

Facial swelling doesn’t just include the face, but can also affect the neck or throat. If there are no injuries to the face, facial swelling can indicate a medical emergency. In most cases, a medical professional should treat facial swelling.

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What Causes Facial Swelling?

Facial swelling can be caused by both minor and major medical conditions. Most causes are easily treatable. However, some are severe and require immediate medical attention. Common causes of facial swelling include:

  • allergic reaction
  • eye infection (such as conjunctivitis)
  • surgery
  • side effect of medication
  • cellulitis
  • sinusitis
  • sty
  • abscess

Recognizing a Medical Emergency

A swollen face due to an allergic reaction may be accompanied by other symptoms. These are the symptoms of anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction). Proper medical treatment must be administered immediately to prevent the reaction from turning into anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock include:

  • swollen airways
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • hives or rash
  • swelling of the face or limbs
  • anxiety or confusion
  • coughing or wheezing
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nasal congestion
  • heart complications
  • low blood pressure
  • slurred speech

If you experience any symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately.

Symptoms of shock may set in quickly. These symptoms include:

  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heart rate
  • weak pulse
  • low blood pressure

In severe cases, respiratory or cardiac arrests may occur.

Common causes for an allergic reaction are allergens such as:

  • insect bites
  • medications
  • plants
  • pollen
  • venom
  • shellfish
  • fish
  • nuts
  • animal dander

Recognizing Facial Swelling

If you’ve eaten foods that you’re allergic to, been exposed to a known allergen, or been stung by a venomous insect or reptile, call 911 immediately.

Don’t wait for the symptoms of anaphylaxis to set in. These symptoms may not occur right away, although they do in most cases.

Along with facial swelling, other symptoms may occur, including:

  • hives or rash
  • itching
  • nasal congestion
  • watery eyes
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • chest discomfort
  • stomach discomfort
  • weakness
  • swelling of surrounding areas

Relieving the Swelling

If you have facial swelling, see your doctor immediately. If a venomous bee sting caused the swelling, remove the stinger immediately. However, do not use tweezers to remove the stinger. If you do, you may pinch the stinger causing it to release more venom.

Instead, use a playing card: press down on the skin in front of the stinger and gently move the card towards the stinger. Then scoop the stinger up from the skin.


If the swelling was caused by an infection in the eyes, nose or mouth, you may be given antibiotics to clear the infection. If an abscess is present, the doctor may cut open the abscess and drain it. The open area will then be closed in with packing material to keep it from becoming infected and reoccurring.

Soothing a Rash

A rash can be soothed with over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or ointment. The itch can also be soothed by using a cool compress.

Other causes such as fluid retention and underlying medical conditions will be treated by a doctor accordingly.

Homecare Treatment Options

Prevent facial swelling by avoiding known allergens. Avoid these allergens by reading ingredient labels and asking your waiter what ingredients are in the dishes you order. If you have a known allergy that can cause anaphylaxis and have been prescribed epinephrine medication (Epi-Pen), be sure to carry it with you. This medication is used to counteract a severe allergic reaction and can prevent facial swelling.

If you had an allergic reaction to medication, avoid taking that medication again. Notify your doctor of any reactions you’ve encountered after taking medication or after eating certain foods.

Learn How to Treat an Allergic Reaction