Mouth Ulcers (Canker Sores) in Babies & Children

All of us have had mouth ulcers at some point in our lives and kids are no different. Children often get distressed when they experience it for the first time not realising that it will soon heal by itself. There are many factors which can lead to the formation of ulcers in the mouth such as deficiency of folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron in the food. Understanding the reasons and treatment of these ulcers will help you comfort your child and get him through this uncomfortable time.


What are Mouth Ulcers?

Mouth ulcers which are also known as canker sores are cuts that are formed in the mouth, the gums and on the cheeks or tongue. Ulcers can also form due to mouth injuries caused while brushing or during dental treatments. In some instances, it can indicate a weakness of the immune system. However, there is no definite reason which can be attributed to the formation of an ulcer.


Causes of Mouth Ulcers?

The chances of child mouth ulcer formation are rare and do not happen very frequently. Following are the reasons which can cause canker sores in infants and children:

  • Ulcers can be caused due to deficiency of vitamins in children
  • Allergy from food or other irritants can lead to ulcer formation
  • Canker sores can be triggered by minor injuries in the mouth. Biting yourself or using a hard toothbrush can cause mouth injuries which may lead to ulcers
  • The problem of canker sores can be passed on genetically to the child
  • Dehydration and insufficient intake of water can also cause canker sores

Canker sores can be painful and cause discomfort to the child and it is difficult to find the exact reason for the formation of an ulcer.

Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Ulcer ?

It is easy to identify a mouth ulcer due to its distinguished appearance in the mouth. Following are the signs and symptoms of mouth ulcers in babies and kids:

  • An ulcer appears round with a white or yellowish sore centre with a red halo
  • Continuous burning sensation in an area in the mouth is a sign of formation of a canker sore
  • Pain or burning sensation experienced by the kid while brushing or chewing can be an indication of a canker sore
  • Ulcers are usually small and measure 6 millimetres or ¼ inches
  • Tenderness and swollen skin around the sores is a symptom of ulcers
  • The sores can bleed while brushing or while eating food. Canker sores which are caused by viral infection can also be accompanied by fever
  • Ulcers can also lead to a loss in appetite

Difference Between Canker Sore and Cold Sore

Canker sores are completely different from a cold sore. Canker sores appear in the soft tissues of the mouth and are not contagious. Cold sores, also known as fever blisters are caused by herpes simplex virus and are contagious. Cold sores generally appear on the outside of the lips.

Treatment Options for Canker Sores

Canker sores do not require any special medication and heal on their own in a few days or in a couple of weeks depending on their size. The pain from the sores usually subsides within three to four days.

It is better to avoid hot, spicy or citrus food as they will make the ulcer hurt even more. You can also apply teething gel or cream on the affected area.

In case of severe pains in the sores, you can request your doctor to give proper dose of over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It is advised not the give any kind of medication to your child without first consulting the doctor.

Home Remedies for Mouth Ulcers in Children

Ice cubes can be applied to the affected area to provide quick mouth ulcer treatment for child. This will reduce the pain by making the affected area numb.

Another effective home remedy to heal a canker sore is to mix hydrogen peroxide with water and dab it generally on the ulcer with the help of a cotton swab. After applying this solution, dab the sore with milk of magnesia carefully as touching the sore can hurt. Repeating this exercise for three to four times in a day will help to heal the ulcer quickly and provide relief from the pain.

How to Prevent Canker Sores?

It is difficult to prevent canker sores as the exact cause for them cannot be determined. In case a sore re-appears in the same area inside your child’s mouth multiple times, it can be due to a sharp edge of the tooth. In such situations, it is advised to visit a dentist and get the tooth checked.

Parents can take precautionary measures to stop the spread of cold and canker sores by washing their hands before touching or feeding the baby. This is vital for parents with newborns who have a weak immune system. In case the child has a cold sore, it is important to make sure that they do not touch their eyes after touching the sore as it could cause an infection.

Ensuring a good diet which is rich in vitamins, folic acid, and iron and maintaining clean surroundings will also reduce the chances of having canker sores.

When Should You Call the doctor?

If the canker sore takes too long to heal and you are not sure if the sore is a canker sore, you should visit the doctor and get your child checked.

You should consult a doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms in your child:

  • Very dark urine at very long intervals with a dry mouth and no tears. This could be a case of severe dehydration.
  • If the child has four or more ulcers.
  • The child looks very sick.
  • Red, swollen and tender gums or presence of sores on the outer lips as well.
  • If the formation of ulcers has begun after medication.
  • If you think any chemicals could have caused ulcers in the mouth, you must consult a doctor immediately.
  • In case sores develop on the gum near a tooth accompanied with a toothache.
  • If there is a large lymph node under the jaw or the child is suffering from fever or swollen face.

Mouth ulcers can be frustrating to deal with for many children. The exact cause of why kids get mouth ulcers is hard to pinpoint which makes it hard for even the most cautious parents to prevent with effectiveness. However, certain precautions can be taken by the parents such as proper hygiene and a balanced diet to reduce the incidence of mouth ulcers.