Canker sores are painful white sores in the mouth. They often begin with a tingling feeling. This is followed by a red spot or bump that turns white. Canker sores appear most often on the tongue, inside the cheeks, and inside the lips. They can be very painful. These sores can make it hard for your child to talk, eat, and drink.
A canker sore may form after an injury or stretching of tissues in the mouth. This can happen, for example, during a dental procedure or teeth cleaning. Your child may get a canker sore if they bite the tongue or the inside of the cheek. Other causes are infection, certain foods, and stress. Canker sores don't spread from person to person.
The pain from your child's canker sore should get better in about a week. It should heal in a few weeks. In most cases, a canker sore will go away by itself. Home treatment can ease pain and discomfort. If your child has a large or deep canker sore that does not seem to be getting better after a few weeks, your doctor may prescribe medicine. Canker sores often come back again.
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 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?
- Have your child drink cold liquids, such as water or iced tea, or eat flavored ice pops or frozen juices. Use a straw to keep the liquid from touching the canker sore.
- Give your child soft, bland foods that are easy to chew and swallow. These include ice cream, custard, applesauce, cottage cheese, macaroni and cheese, soft-cooked eggs, yogurt, and cream soups.
- Cut foods into small pieces, or grind, mash, blend, or puree foods. This makes them easier for your child to chew and swallow.
- While the canker sore heals, your child will need to avoid chocolate, spicy and salty foods, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, and tomatoes.
- Put ice on your child's sore to reduce the pain.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
- Use a soft-bristle toothbrush. Make sure your child brushes their teeth carefully.
Ask your doctor before using mouth-numbing medicine for children of any age. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that some of these can be dangerous.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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