What to Do When Illnesses Cause Sores in Your Child’s Mouth



As parents, it is difficult to watch our children feel miserable when they have a childhood illness. Oftentimes, all you can do is try to minimize their discomfort and get them to eat a little bit and drink enough to keep from getting dehydrated. So, what happens when an illness like hand, foot, and mouth disease or chickenpox causes sores or blisters in their mouth? Foods they normally would eat when sick may cause pain and just the thought of brushing their teeth is awful. Luckily, these symptoms usually only last a few days, and we have a few tips to help you get through them.


Overview of 3 common childhood diseases that cause mouth sores

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is one of the most common childhood illnesses that causes blisters to form in and around the mouth. However, many different viruses, including chickenpox and herpangina, can also create this painful symptom. Other symptoms of HFMD include:

  • Blisters or rash in the mouth, on the hands, feet, and buttocks (Blisters may appear in one or all of these areas.)

  • Mild fever

  • Sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Loss of appetite

  • Irritability

Herpangina is similar to HFMD but does have slightly different symptoms.

  • Sores usually only appear in the mouth and throat.

  • Fever (can quickly become a high fever)

  • Headache

  • Sore throat and mouth

  • Loss of appetite

  • Neck pain

  • Drooling

Chickenpox is becoming less common now that there is a vaccine, but some children still do get it.

  • The blisters may cover the entire body and eventually turn into scabs

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

If your child has sores in their mouth, but no fever or other symptoms, it is possible that they have canker sores.

HFMD, chickenpox, and herpangina are all highly contagious. They can be spread while a person has symptoms. Depending on the virus, they can also be spread a few days before symptoms appear, and up to a few weeks after symptoms are gone. Hand, foot, and mouth disease and herpangina are two examples of a virus that can be passed on for weeks after all symptoms disappear.

Unlike chickenpox which a person usually only gets once, HFMD and herpangina are each caused by multiple viruses. This means children can experience them many times. Luckily, other than a week or so of discomfort, they rarely result in complications.

Treatment


Unfortunately, since these illnesses are caused by viruses, there is no medication to help fight them. There are quite a few things you can do to help alleviate your child’s pain and help them heal more quickly.

Drink plenty of fluids. It is important to help your child stay hydrated which also helps your body get rid of the virus more quickly. Drinking cold water or sucking on ice chips may also help lessen any discomfort caused by sores in the mouth. If your child won’t drink enough, be sure to contact their doctor.

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with the pain and lower a fever.

Oral pain relievers such as lozenges, sprays, or gels may help with pain. Be sure to check with your child’s doctor. Some oral pain relievers are not safe for young children, and babies under 1 should not be given most of them.

Cool, bland, soft food, such as yogurt, cold milk, smoothies, and ice cream may entice your child to eat.

  • Many juices and juice popsicles may be too acidic, and make sores hurt worse.

  • Salty or spicy foods should also be avoided.

  • It is also important to watch the sugar content in the foods your child eats. Your immune system doesn’t work as well for a few hours after eating added sugars, so relying on sugary popsicles and ice cream may actually cause your child’s illness to last longer.

If blisters on the rest of your child’s body are itchy, you can try using calamine lotion, a cool bath with baking soda or uncooked oatmeal in the water, or ice packs to stop the itching. It is important to try to keep your child from scratching because it could cause infection or scarring.


Keeping their mouth clean

If your kiddo’s mouth is hurting, of course, your priority will be to ease their pain and it may be tempting to let their oral hygiene slide. It is still important to do whatever small things you can since plaque can form in just a few days.

  • Use an extra soft toothbrush and brush gently.

  • Give your child a sip of water after they eat or drink anything. Not only will this help rinse away food particles and harmful bacteria, but a bunch of tiny sips throughout the day also builds up to help keep them hydrated.

  • If your child is old enough to rinse and spit, you can try a saltwater rinse to clean as well as reduce pain and inflammation from the sores. Simply mix ½ teaspoon of salt in a cup of lukewarm water, then have your child swish it around and spit it out. Be sure it isn’t too warm, since a temperature that would normally be fine can be painful on sores.

  • You may want to avoid letting them use mouthwash since it can irritate the sores.


Since these illnesses are highly contagious, be sure to wash your own hands thoroughly after touching or cleaning your child’s mouth.

Prevention

Since many childhood illnesses are highly contagious and can be spread when there are no symptoms, it may be difficult to prevent them. However, using these 5 tips may help your child avoid hand, foot, and mouth disease in addition to colds, the flu, covid-19, and any other virus that they may be exposed to.

  1. Train your child to wash their hands frequently and well.

  2. Remind them not to put their fingers, toys, or anything but food in their mouth.

  3. Regularly clean objects and surfaces that are touched a lot.

  4. Avoid close contact with people who may have been exposed.

  5. A healthy immune system will work wonders in keeping your child well. Plenty of sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and minimizing stress are four main factors that will keep your child’s immune system strong.


We wish that you and your family could always stay safe and healthy but if your kiddos happen to get an illness that causes sores in their mouth, we hope that this information is useful!

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.


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