How Do You Treat Cold Sores And Canker Sores?

Team Pediatric Dentistry

Cold and canker sores can be painful and irritating for your child. If your child has these issues, you may want to know how to treat them for proper healing.

Cold and canker sores look and feel similar, but they have different causes and treatments. This blog will explain why cold and canker sores form, how to treat them, and when your child should see a dentist.

Cold Sores

A cold sore is also known as a fever blister. It is a small red blister that forms around the mouth or lips. It may also appear on the cheeks, nose, or chin.

Causes of Cold Sores

The name "cold sore" implies that the problem is connected with the common cold, but this is false. The herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) causes these contagious sores. Most children receive exposure to HSV-1 between ages one and five.

Stress, fatigue, illness, dehydration, and exposure to extreme temperatures and humidity may cause cold sores to flare up.

Treatment of Cold Sores

Most cold sores go away on their own without medical treatment. Some comfort measures include giving the child a warm or chilled washcloth to place on the sore. Cool foods like smoothies or ice pops can help.

When a child has a cold sore, avoid highly acidic foods like lemons, tomatoes, dark chocolate, and sour candies. These foods can irritate the delicate skin and cause the cold sore to last longer.

If the discomfort persists to the point where your child does not want to eat or drink, talk to your pediatric dentist or physician about giving an over-the-counter pain reliever. A prescription or over-the-counter antiviral cream can also help ease the symptoms and shorten the life of the sore.

Avoid Spreading Cold Sores

Cold sores are extremely contagious, with the infection often passing from parents or relatives to children. Ensure no one showing signs of a cold sore kisses your child, especially babies under six months.

Don't let your child with a cold sore share utensils, toothpaste, towels, or any other item that touches the face with others. Older children should avoid sports with skin-to-skin contact until their sores have healed.

Canker Sores

A canker sore (an aphthous ulcer) is a small sore under the tongue, inside the lips and cheeks, or on the gums. A canker sore makes toothbrushing, eating, and drinking painful for your child.

Canker sores are open sores located inside the mouth. They are usually round, with a yellow or white coating and a red ring around them. The average size is about 1/4 inch across, though they may be larger. Some children may chew or prod the area with their tongue, worsening the pain. 

Causes of Canker Sores

Canker sores sometimes form when the mouth has sustained a minor injury from biting the inside of the cheek or brushing the teeth too vigorously. Sometimes they have no obvious cause. Nutritional issues, including vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron deficiencies, could be to blame. People with food allergies are more prone to canker sores.

Some children are sensitive to sodium laureth sulfate, a common toothpaste and mouthwash ingredient, and may develop canker sores due to exposure.

Emotional stress can also raise a child's risk of developing canker sores. This connection is especially common in teens and college students, who may be more prone to canker sores during exam periods.

Treatment of Canker Sores

Canker sores usually heal on their own within a few days or weeks. If your child experiences pain, you can give them an over-the-counter pain reliever.

A saltwater mouth rinse can also help the healing process by drying the sores. Add a teaspoon of salt to 1/2 cup hot water and dissolve it completely. Rinse with the saltwater solution for 30 seconds and spit it out.

As with cold sores, avoid letting your child have acidic foods or drinks. Salty and spicy foods can cause further irritation. Avoid rough-textured foods like nuts and chips as well.

See your pediatric dentist or physician if the sore does not go away on its own. Prescription medications and mouthwashes may help heal the area.

Contact Tender Smiles 4 Kids

If your child has a cold or canker sore that does not go away on its own, contact us for an appointment in one of our convenient New Jersey offices. We can help restore your child's comfort and help them return to their normal foods and activities.