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Mouth Problems in Infants and Children

Sores and other problems in and around your child's mouth can be painful and worrisome. Follow this chart for more information about common causes of mouth problems in children.

Note: Aspirin should never be used in the treatment of chickenpox, influenza, or other viral diseases because aspirin has been associated with the serious disease Reye syndrome, which can lead to liver failure and even death. In general, aspirin should not be used for children or teenagers except on the advice of a doctor for certain conditions.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Does your child have a fever along with mouth issues?

  • Is your child an infant, and is the infant drooling or wanting to chew on things?

  • Does your child have red and swollen gums that may bleed when the child brushes or flosses?

  • Does your child have honey-colored crusting on the mouth that began as an itchy red sore or cluster of blisters?

  • Does your child have a red or purple sore or cluster of sores on a lip or the outer edge of the lips?

  • Does your child have small, open and painful sores that are white or yellowish with a red border on the inner lips or cheek, gums or tongue?

  • Does your child have small, painful bumps on the tongue?

  • Does your child have a small, painless, fluid-filled sac that may be bluish in color on the inner lips, gums, palate, or under the tongue?

  • Does your child have creamy white patches on the tongue, inner cheek, or gums, and are they painful when scraped?

  • Does your child have a sore or swollen tongue or lips?

  • Does your child have sores or blisters on the face and on the body, such as the stomach, chest, or back? Is your child up to date on their vaccinations?

  • Does your child have a sore throat and painful blisters on the tongue or mouth, or a rash on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet?

  • Does your child have a red and sore throat with white patches on the throat or tonsils, and potentially a rash somewhere else on the body?

  • Does your child have painful sores, swelling, or redness on the inside of the cheeks and on the gums?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    Try to confirm whether the pain is related to the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, etc. Follow the symptom checker below.

    Also, see “Does your child have sores or blisters on the face and on the body, such as the stomach, chest, or back?”


    Self Care

    If the fever is greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or persists despite the use of acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, see your child’s doctor


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may be TEETHING.


    Self Care

    Use teething rings or let your baby chew on a wet washcloth. Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger. Wipe off drool to prevent rashes on the baby’s face. Use children’s acetaminophen to relieve discomfort, but call your doctor if the baby develops any fever before two months old, or a fever greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or the fever persists in an older infant or child despite regular use of acetaminophen/ibuprofen.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may have GUM DISEASE, such as GINGIVITIS or PERIODONTITIS, usually caused by poor DENTAL HYGIENE.


    Self Care

    Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups starting no later than 3 years. Good dental hygiene, such as regular brushing, flossing, dental checkups, and eating a healthy diet can prevent gum disease.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may have IMPETIGO, a contagious bacterial skin infection.


    Self Care

    Gently wash the area with warm, soapy water three or four times a day and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. If the sores spread or don’t get better, call your child’s doctor. Your doctor can prescribe a topical antibiotic to apply to the affected area.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child probably has a COLD SORE caused by a virus called HERPES.


    Self Care

    Cold sores will usually go away on their own, but can be treated with an antiviral medication. Apply an over-the-counter cold sore ointment for comfort and see your child’s doctor. If the sores are painful, give your child an analgesic, such as acetaminophen. Avoid pinching, picking, or squeezing the blisters.


  • Diagnosis

    These may be APHTHOUS ULCERS or CANKER SORES.


    Self Care

    CANKER SORES usually heal on their own. To relieve discomfort, have your child rinse their mouth with salt water or diluted hydrogen peroxide, or apply an over-the-counter oral gel. You may also want to give your child an analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain. Your doctor can also prescribe a steroid dental paste to reduce discomfort. See your doctor if your child’s symptoms don’t improve or if they are unable to eat due to the discomfort from the sore.


  • Diagnosis

    These bumps are probably PAPILLAE (where the taste buds are) that have become inflamed due to an injury from a burn caused by hot food or drink or a self-inflicted bite.


    Self Care

    The inflammation and bump will usually go away on its own. Avoid feeding your child hot, spicy, and acidic foods. Give your child an analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain.


  • Diagnosis

    These may be MUCOCELES, harmless cysts that may be caused by sucking mouth tissue between the teeth.


    Self Care

    These cysts will usually go away on their own. To avoid infection, do not try to open or lance the cyst. See your child’s doctor if the cysts don’t go away.


  • Diagnosis

    This may be CANDIDIASIS or ORAL THRUSH caused by a fungus.


    Self Care

    This condition usually goes away on its own. Feed your child unsweetened yogurt with live cultures to restore the natural balance of bacteria in the body. Have your child gargle with salt water or use an analgesic, such as acetaminophen to relieve pain. If the symptoms get worse or don’t get better, see your child’s doctor. Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medicine. This type of infection can also occur in people that are immunocompromised (weakened immune system). Talk with your doctor if your child is getting frequent infections.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may be having an ALLERGIC REACTION.


    Self Care

    URGENT
    Call your child’s doctor right away. You can use an over-the-counter antihistamine to help with acute symptoms.


  • Diagnosis

    If the answer is ‘no’ about up-to-date vaccinations, your child may have CHICKENPOX or MEASLES, extremely contagious infections.


    Self Care

    Give your child acetaminophen to relieve pain and reduce fever. Call your child’s doctor if fever their gets worse or doesn’t go away, if blisters look infected, or if new symptoms appear, such as headache or nausea.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may have HAND-FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE or HERPANGINA, viral infections caused by the COXSACKIE VIRUS.


    Self Care

    These illnesses must run their course. Avoid giving the child food and drinks that irritate blisters, such as spicy, salty, or acidic foods. Have your child drink plenty of cold fluids, such as milk and ice water. Feed your child non-irritating foods, such as ice cream. Have your child gargle with salt water to relieve discomfort and give your child an analgesic, such as acetaminophen to relieve pain and reduce fever. Call your child’s doctor if symptoms get worse or don’t get any better.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may have STREP THROAT, a bacterial infection.


    Self Care

    See your child’s doctor. He or she may want to do some tests and prescribe antibiotics. Allow your child to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Give your child an analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce fever. Gargling with salt water may relieve some discomfort.


  • Diagnosis

    Your child may have GINGIVOSTOMATITIS, a condition caused by a viral infection from HERPES or COXSACKIE VIRUSES.


    Self Care

    This condition usually gets better on its own. Allow your child to drink plenty of fluids and offer cold, soothing foods, such as ice cream or frozen yogurt. Give your child acetaminophen to relieve pain and reduce fever. Gargling with salt water may also relieve discomfort.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.


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