Mouthing Off: Taking Care of Canker Sores
We’ve all had canker sores — those small, irritating and painful sores that appear on the inside of our mouths, cheeks, gums or tongues. What’s worse, these mouth ulcers, caused by a viral infection, may last one to two weeks, making eating and talking a challenge. Here’s how to recognize canker sores — what doctors call stomatitis — and how to help your child feel better until it clears up.
What causes canker sores?
There is no one thing that causes canker sores. They can be brought on by stress, certain vitamin deficiencies (such as folic acid, vitamin B12 and zinc), a weaker immune system or by cuts on the inside of the mouth from biting the cheek or tongue. While they are not contagious, canker sore outbreaks tend to run in families. If you have a tendency to get canker sores, your child may be just as suceptible.
Canker sores remedy
If your child has stomatitis, you’ll see whitish sores or blisters on her gums, tongue and/or other areas inside her mouth. She may have one blister or a small cluster. These sores may be so painful that she may not want to eat or drink. She may also have a fever. You can ease the pain of canker sores and help your child eat and drink by knowing what to do — and what not to do.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol® or generics) every four hours at the correct dose for his age (check the label or check with his doctor) to alleviate the pain and bring down any fever he may have.
- Encourage cool liquids, popsicles and soft foods, such as applesauce, yogurt, pudding or mashed potatoes. They're easier to eat and drink.
- Have her drink through a straw.
- Try to have your child keep his hands out of his mouth.
- Wash your hands — and your child’s — frequently.
- Wash any toys your child places in her mouth, both before and after she plays with them. (The same goes for any eating utensils.)
- Try over-the-counter remedies such as rinses or pain relievers. You can also try some home remedies, such as placing a wet black-tea bag on the sores. Tea contains tannin, which can help relieve pain.
- Dab a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) and water on the sore followed by milk of magnesia — a home remedy that has also been know to bring relief. Dabbing milk of magnesia on the sore a few times a day can be very helpful.
- Don’t give your child acidic or carbonated drinks, such as orange and grapefruit juices, lemonade or soda.
- Don’t give him salty or spicy foods such as potato chips, nuts and pretzels.
- Don’t brush her teeth too hard or use a hard-bristled toothbrush.
Know when to call for help
Canker sores, while painful, will eventually clear up, but it’s important that you call your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner if your child:
- Can’t swallow or is refusing to drink
- Looks dehydrated:
- Hasn’t urinated in the last eight hours
- Doesn’t shed tears when he cries
- Has dry and cracked lips
- Looks drowsy or weak
- Isn’t getting better after a week
- Has canker sores that continue to return
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD
Date: December 2012