image001Cold sores are small blisters filled with fluid found on the lips or surrounding areas. Also called fever blisters, cold sores can appear in clusters or as an individual blister. Cold sores among infants and toddlers are rare although it having it is highly probable at this age.

Contrary to popular opinion, cold sores are not linked to having colds and even mistake the blisters to canker sores characterized by crater-like lesions found inside the mouth, gums or on the tongue. Preventive measures can be taken to avoid cold sores in your toddler.

Symptoms of Cold Sores in Toddlers

Symptoms: The early signs of cold sore among children are sore mouth and swollen gums. Small blisters around the lip area or directly on the lips will start to form after a few days and eventually become a painful sore. Fever comes next together with swollen lymph glands on the neck. Days later, the lesion will crust over then disappear. Therefore, it may come and go after treating itself.

Duration: As for the time duration, flare-ups last around 7 to 10 painful days for the child, which will cause him to avoid eating or drinking. In the long run, reactivity of the virus will immediately show blisters and with minimized pain and soreness.

Are Cold Sores in Toddlers Dangerous?

Cold sores are painful and look nasty, which prompts parents to ask whether having it is dangerous or not. These blisters are not dangerous, but parents must be wary of possible spread to other body parts. Despite its ability to treat itself, parents must also take note of some warning signs when they should bring the child to his care provider.

What Are the Warning Signs?



Spread of cold sores

The first warning sign is noticeable spread of cold sores. Prominent spreading is a sign of cold sores becoming a bacterial infection instead of being viral. Bacterial cold sores will require antibiotics to treat the problem.


Another warning sign is fever that comes with cold sores. This fever that causes the child to feel generally weak or unwell needs physician’s attention and appropriate workup.

Sores inside mouth

The next sign is the development gingivostomatitis or noticeable sores inside the toddler’s mouth. This sore feeling will make drinking impossible or enticing for the child, which may result to dehydration particularly for younger children.

Herpetic eye Infection

The herpes will be known with another name depending on the affected area. For instance, ocular herpes, a serious eye infection, occurs when cold sores spread towards the eye area. Developing ocular herpes requires a check-up with a physician or paediatrician right away in which the care provider may prescribe antiviral medications to prevent spread to the cornea, which may cause scarring. Several rare cases of ocular herpes resulted to weakened vision or blindness to a greater extent.

How to Avoid Spread of Virus 

If the child has ocular herpes, the parent must keep him from touching the eyes and spread the virus elsewhere. Regular hand washing is a good practice to deal away with the picked up virus from the blisters. Since it is common for people to rub their eyes while sleeping, experts recommend mittens for the child while sleeping to avoid picking up the virus involuntarily.

How Do Cold Sores in Toddlers Happen?

Cold sores form due to herpes simplex virus type 1. The type 2 virus often causes genital herpes although cases show that both can cause facial and genital sores.

Contact between another person and your child through kissing is a probable cause of cold sores. A person with cold sore, whether visible or not, can transmit herpes simplex virus through saliva. An infant can also obtain the virus at delivery through the birth if the mother has genital herpes.

Contracting the virus is possible at any age even with the absence of visible cold sores. Hence, the child may have this virus without everyone knowing about it. Once the child contracted this virus, it remains in the body by staying within the nerve cells around the ear area. The virus can be active or wake up periodically and cause cold sores. Although the trigger for virus activity is unclear, several conditions are linked as cause of outbreaks like exhaustion, fever, colds, stress and sunburns.

How to Prevent Cold Sores in Toddlers

A parent with cold sores should avoid kissing the child until treated. Exposure to the sun can also trigger cold sores and parents can apply sunscreen with good SPF protection, at least SPF 15. Lip balm also keeps the lips moisturized to avoid cold sores. Stress relief can also aid in preventing this problem. In case of noticeable spread, parents must immediately bring the child to his physician to get better treatment like topical medication for pain and others.

How to Treat Cold Sores in Toddlers

Cold sores will eventually disappear, but several solutions can help ease the pain.

  • Apply ice to the cold sore area and give appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, which are mild pain relievers. Do not give aspirin to a child because it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare yet fatal illness. If sores affect the child’s diet, call the physician for appropriate measures.
  • The pediatrician may also prescribe several antiviral medicines like acyclovir, which is formulated for HSV infections. It can prevent the virus from multiplying and if administered early, can minimize the symptoms and treat the sores faster.
  • Numbing liquid can be applied to the lesions to alleviate pain, but some children may not require this medication because they heal faster on their own.
  • Continuous administration may keep cold sores from reoccurring although documentation regarding its success is quite limited.
  • It is always recommended to give your toddler extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid foods and drinks that irritate the sores. Opt to offer your kid gentle juices like apple juice, rather than giving him acidic ones like lemonade or orange juice.

Watch a video for more on treatment measures for cold sores in toddlers: