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Blue skin or lips (cyanosis)

Cyanosis is where your skin or lips turn blue. It can be a sign of a serious problem.

You may notice a blue colour on your:

  • lips
  • tongue
  • gums
  • skin
  • ears
  • under your nails

If you have dark skin, cyanosis may be easier to see:

  • on your lips, tongue and gums
  • under your nails
  • around your eyes

Your hands and feet are usually a normal temperature unless you also have poor blood circulation.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • your or your child's lips, tongue, face or skin suddenly turn blue

You or your child may also have:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain

These are signs of a serious medical problem.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your or your child's fingers, toes, hands and feet are blue

This may be a sign of poor blood circulation.

Cyanosis can mean there's not enough oxygen in your blood, or you have poor blood circulation. It can be caused by a serious problem with the:

  • lungs, like asthma or pneumonia
  • airways like choking or croup
  • heart, like heart failure or congenital heart disease

Other causes of cyanosis include:

  • Raynaud's, which affects your fingers and toes
  • beta blockers, a medicine used to treat high blood pressure
  • a blood clot that stops the blood supply to or from a limb
  • being in cold air or water
  • wearing clothing or jewellery that's too tight

Cyanosis is a symptom of many different conditions.

Treatment depends on the cause.