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Herpes Gingivostomatitis in Children: Care Instructions


Herpes gingivostomatitis (say "JIN-juh-voh-stoh-muh-TY-tus") is a viral infection, caused by the same virus as cold sores or fever blisters. Usually the sores are inside the mouth and down the throat. But they can also be around the lips. It most often happens the first time your child is infected with this virus. Later outbreaks on the lips or inside the mouth are called cold sores. The sores are painful. The pain can make it hard for your child to eat and drink. Your child may also have a fever.

The sores and swelling will go away on their own in 1 to 2 weeks.

Your child may need to stay home from daycare or school until the sores and swelling are gone. That's because the infection is easily spread to others. Children can spread it through their saliva (drool) to items such as toys or cups. They can also spread it to others through touch during play.

Your child may be grumpy, fussy, and restless because of the pain. There are things you can do at home that may help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Watch for and treat signs of dehydration, which means that the body has lost too much water. Your child's mouth may feel very dry. Your child may have sunken eyes with few tears when crying. Your child may lack energy and want to be held a lot. And your child may not urinate as often as usual.
  • Give your child flavoured ice pops. These may help prevent dehydration and help the mouth feel better.
  • Give your child soft, bland food that may be less painful to chew and swallow.
  • Avoid acidic drinks, such as orange juice.
  • Keep your child's towels and other objects away from other members of your family while your child has sores.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your child is very sleepy and hard to wake up.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.
  • Your child is unable to drink any liquids.
  • Your child seems to be getting sicker.
  • Your child develops eye redness or discharge or has any vision changes.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.