Mouth ulcers in children can be pretty uncomfortable and can cause a great deal of pain even though they typically heal within a week or two. Discussed here are reasons why mouth ulcers in children occur, some easy and useful methods to control the pain, reduce chances of bacterial infection and quicken the healing process as well as advice on preventing the ulcer from returning.

Causes of Mouth Ulcers in Children

Mouth ulcers are sores that form on the inside of the lips or cheeks, and are usually round or oval in shape plus quite painful.

  • Ÿ A virus is believed to be responsible for the ulcer. Mouth ulcers in children typically occur when a child is sick, tired or under too much stress. Such ulcers are also called canker sores.
  • ŸPhysical injury, such as biting inside the cheek can also cause mouth ulcers. Infections or viruses like herpes simplex can sometimes lead to similar cold sores or oral thrush.
  • ŸNutrient deficiency. In some cases, mouth ulcers can recur in children who are deficient in iron, zinc, folate or the B group of vitamins. Some children may be genetically predisposed to the condition.
  • ŸHFAMD. Another common cause of multiple mouth ulcers is the hand-foot-mouth disease, which can lead to ulcers on the tongue and the sides of the mouth. The Coxsackie A-16 virus is responsible for this disease, which occurs in children between the ages of 1-5 years.

Symptoms of Mouth Ulcers in Children

Those sores as described above may appear on the inside of the mouth or the surface of the tongue or gums. Salty or spicy foods can intensify pain in the sores. In certain cases, the child may not even be able to eat until the condition improves.

Some common signs and symptoms of mouth ulcers in children include:

  • A sudden feverish condition
  • Grouchiness or lack of energy in the child
  • Sores and blisters on the tongue surface or roof of the mouth that are typically small but may be filled with fluid
  • Swelling in the gums that may sometimes bleed too
  • The child may suffer from acute pain in the mouth
  • It will be difficult for the child to eat or drink; sometimes it results in a decline in appetite

When to See a Doctor

In case you suspect the child might have a mouth infection related ulcer, do not hesitate to consult the doctor. An infection like Candida albicans yeast, also called thrush, or herpes simplex virus (referred to as the cold sore virus), can be a cause for concern and necessitates a visit to the doctor.

If your child develops a severe case of mouth ulcer with the following symptoms of illness, then prompt medical attention may be necessary. The signs include:

  • Loss of weight
  • Pain in the tummy
  • A fever that has no obvious or apparent cause
  • Presence of blood or mucus in stool
  • Inflammation or ulceration of skin around the anus. Such a condition might happen if the mouth ulcer has been caused by coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis in other words).

How to Treat Mouth Ulcers in Children

Most mouth ulcers that are not too severe easily heal within a week even without treatment. If that does not happen or the child is suffering from too much pain, then you can try the following solutions.

  • ŸApply a pain relieving mouth gel on the painful area. You can easily obtain these gels over the counter from certain pharmacies.
  • ŸPeriodic warm, salt-water rinses can also alleviate the pain so you can try that method if the child knows how to gargle or rinse using liquid.
  • ŸFor infants, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease the pain and reduce fever. However, if the baby is younger than 3 months then seek doctor’s advice before taking medication and remember not to give aspirin to a person younger than 20 years of age. In cases where the pain is too critical, the doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication.

In case the mouth ulcer is mild, you can try out the following methods to speed up the healing process:

  • Use soft toothbrush. Make sure the child uses a soft toothbrush to clean the teeth.
  • Eat the right foods. Try not to consume hard, spicy, sharp or acidic drinks or foods before the ulcer heals. Solid food is okay for older children, but if the child is too young, then mashed potatoes, strained baby food, applesauce, yoghurt or other foods that are soft or bland in taste and do not need much chewing should be preferred. Try not to force feed the child solid foods if they are in pain.
  • Keep your baby hydrated. Sometimes the child may refuse drinks because of the pain, but it is vital that you make them drink plenty of liquids. Dehydration can worsen the condition. Contact the doctor urgently if the child shows dehydration signs or goes without urinating or drinking for longer than six hours.
  • Water, hydrogen peroxide, salt and baking soda.The child can use mouthwash that contains tetracycline to relieve pain and prevent bacterial infections. However, tetracycline may result in teeth stains in young children. Therefore, you can try thishomemade recipe for mouthwash that contains 2 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 2-4 ounces of water, combined with a teaspoon of salt and baking soda. Use this mouthwash at least four times every day till the sores heal.
  • Water, hydrogen peroxide and magnesia milk. Another useful method is to apply a mixture of equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide on the sores and then a little dab of milk of magnesia. This is an effective remedy for cleaning the sore and relieving pain. You can also try using a combination of baking soda and water, in paste form, directly on the sore after meals.
  • Medicines that contain peroxide and glycerin can help relieve discomfort and clean the sores. Benzocaine, eucalyptol and menthol are effective too in speeding up the healing process and numbing the sore, if applied regularly.

The following video explains more on the causes of mouth ulcers and how to deal with it: