Herpes in Children - Causes, Symptoms and Preventions
Health Education

Cold Sores (Herpes) in Children

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 26 Sep 2014 - 12:59.

Cold sores have nothing to do with colds. They occur as small red blisters that crop up near or over the lips. They are common after an attack of fever and hence are usually referred to as fever blisters.

These blisters are usually confused with canker sores, which are crate-like and mostly appear on the tongue or on the inside of the cheeks. Rare though, these blisters may appear over the roof of the mouth.

The commonest cause for these sores is a viral infection called herpes simplex type I (HSV-I). These should not be confused with HSV-II a virus known to cause genital herpes.

The commonest route of infection with HSV-I is through kissing. Some one with a cold sore might have kissed your child. It can also be due to a kiss from a person who doesn’t have a visible sore but has been harboring the virus. A baby may also have sore during her birth if the mother has genital herpes like in HSV-II.

If the baby has got the virus it stays in his body for good hiding in the cells of the nerves near his ears. In some babies the virus lies dormant without causing any harm. In some other babies the virus wakes up periodically to trigger cold sores. Nobody knows what makes the virus to get into action suddenly though it is believed that stress, fever, colds and sunburn (exposure to sun for longer periods) are responsible to encourage an outbreak of these sores.

Most of the infants are protected for at least six months from HSV-I by the antibodies they received from their mothers. Call your pediatrician right away, if you notice a cold sore in your child, as the child’s immune system is still in the developing stage and any kind of herpes virus is very dangerous.

The first time your baby is a victim of cold sore he will start with swollen gums and a sore mouth A few days later you will notice a cluster of small blisters over his lips are around his lips which later turn into a shallow painful sore with or without accompanying fever and the lymph nodes in the neck area may get swollen. Within a few days the sores will crust and disappear slowly. The entire flare-up activity may last for about 7 to 10 days. If your child gets a repeat attack, this time over, there will be no swelling or pain in the mouth and the blisters appear directly.

Cold sores generally go away by itself. However, you need to do some things to give the child relief from pain and ensure comfort. Steps to reduce the symptoms may include:

  • You may apply ice over the sores to give comfort to the child. On doctor’s advice you may some pain killer drops.
  • Under no circumstances should aspirin be given to a child, as it could trigger a dangerous life threatening disease called Reye’s syndrome.  You may use smoothening ointments available across the counter.
  • Do not feed any salty or spicy or sour foods to the child, as they irritate the raw nerves in the sores.
  • You can apply water-based zinc preparations in the form of an ointment, which keeps the sores dry for a faster healing.
  • To avoid infecting the child’s own body elsewhere or infecting others, wash the child’shands as frequently as possible and prevent from picking at his/her sores.
  • While it is rather difficult to keep your child from touching the eyes when suffering from cold sore, try your utmost in keeping in touching the eyes, as it may cause a serious infection.
  • If your child has painful sore on the eyelid, eye surface or on the tip of the nose,reach out to your pediatrician immediately, antiviral drugs may be administered to prevent scarring of the cornea. Also, in such cases though rare, the child might lose vision and may even go blind.

Some prevention measures include:

  • As a mother, if you have a cold sore, avoid kissing your baby (especially a newborn) until you are free from it completely. You may even have to cover your face with a mask. Always remember that just one peck with an infected lip is all that is needed to pass on the virus.
  • Infectious diseases experts recommend that a mother with Herpes sore on her breast should avoid breastfeeding her child and manage through supplements with formula milk.
  • If your child already had an attack earlier make sure that he gets a nutritious diet to strengthen his immune system.
  • If you have got to take your child outdoors make sure the child is protected from exposure to sun which might trigger a silent virus to flare up.
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.