Cold Sores in Children
What is a Cold Sore?
A cold core is a small, round, blister-like lesion that appears inside the mouth, on the lips or on the nose. They’re sometimes called “fever blisters,” because the virus that causes cold sores often causes a fever, swollen neck glands and other symptoms that feel like a flu bug. This flu-like syndrome can last one to two weeks.
How Children Get Cold Sores
A cold sore is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which is transmitted through kissing, sharing eating utensils or drinking out of a cup shared with someone who has the virus. HSV-1 isn’t the same virus as that which causes genital herpes, which is HSV-2.
How Cold Sores Are Treated
Most cold sores go away on their own in a week to ten days. In the meantime, avoid giving your child acidic foods and drinks such as lemons, orange juice, sour candies, etc. You can use topical gels such as Orajel but these give only temporary relief and should only be used in limited amounts once a day.
There are no medications that can cure the HSV-1 infection, but over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, can ease your child’s discomfort, and cold foods and beverages can also lessen pain. Note: Do not give your child aspirin because it has been linked to Reye syndrome in children with viral infections.
Most outbreaks of cold sores do not require medical or dental attention unless:
- Your child gets repeated cold sores
- Sores don’t heal by themselves within 7-10 days
- Sores are near the eyes
- Has a weakened immune system that might allow the virus to spread to other parts of the body
How to Prevent the Spread of Cold Sores
Cold sores are very contagious. If your child has a cold sore, please take the following precautions:
- Keep washcloths, towels, drinking and food utensils used by that child away from other family members. Wash separately after each use.
- Instruct them not to kiss others until their cold sores are healed
- Be sure they wash their hands any time they touch the cold sores
- Try to prevent them from touching their eyes, as the infection can be very serious if it infects the child’s eyes
- Anyone caring for a child with a cold sore must wash hands frequently to avoid spreading the virus to themselves or others.
Laser Treatments for Cold Sores
For children who frequently develop cold sores, a soft tissue laser can destroy the virus immediately, offering faster healing and reduce the discomfort.