Cyanosis is a condition in which the skin appears to have a blue tint. It occurs in areas where the blood in surface blood vessels has lower levels of oxygen. It can be a sign of a medical emergency.

Blue skin, or cyanosis, happens when there is a reduced amount of oxygen in your body. This reduction of oxygen affects the blood vessels near the skin causing it to turn blue.

Circumoral cyanosis refers to blue discoloration around the mouth only. It’s usually seen in infants, especially above the upper lip. If your child has darker skin, the discoloration might look more gray or white. You might also notice it on their hands and feet.

While the appearance of circumoral cyanosis can be alarming, there are a few things you can quickly check for to rule out a medical emergency.

If the blue color is only around your child’s mouth and not on their lips or other parts of their face, it’s likely harmless. For children with darker skin, you can also check the inside of their mouth, including their gums, for any pale discoloration.

If you notice discoloration in any area other than around your child’s mouth or on their hands and feet, seek emergency medical treatment.

Additional warning signs include:

In many cases, circumoral cyanosis is considered a type of acrocyanosis. Acrocyanosis happens when small blood vessels shrink in response to cold. This is very normal in infants during the first few days after birth.

In older children, circumoral cyanosis often appears when they go outside in cold weather or get out of a warm bath. This type of cyanosis should go away once they warm up. If it doesn’t, seek emergency medical treatment. Circumoral cyanosis that doesn’t go away with heat could be a sign of a serious lung or heart problem, such as cyanotic congenital heart disease.

Circumoral cyanosis in children usually goes away on its own. For infants, this happens a few days after birth. For older children, it should happen once they get warm.

However, if you notice any other unusual symptoms, especially related to breathing, it’s best to take your child to the emergency room as soon as possible. A doctor will likely need to stabilize their airways, breathing, and circulation before trying to figure out the underlying cause.

Circumoral cyanosis can be frightening, especially for new parents. However, it’s usually nothing serious as long as the blue discoloration is only around the mouth and not on the lips. Warming your child up with some cuddling or a blanket should make the blue color fade. If it doesn’t, or your child also has trouble eating or breathing, take them to the emergency room as soon as possible.