If you spot a small sore, with red edges and yellowish colour in the middle, in your child's mouth, you may have a case of a baby mouth ulcer.
And what's that? You may be guessing. Well, baby mouth ulcers are related to a condition called gingivostomatitis, which is caused by a viral infection that generally strikes during childhood. And that's not surprising at all, since babies and little kids tend to suck on many objects, their dirty hands and feet, allowing for hotbeds of viruses to spread through.
Most children get baby mouth ulcer because of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the hand-foot-and-mouth disease, caused by the coxsackievirus, which is also responsible for herpangina, another mouth infection.
If you wonder what can happen to your child when having baby mouth ulcers and what you can do to treat them, stick to this article.
What are the symptoms of a baby mouth ulcer?
As noted above, the sores, which are no bigger than 5 millimetres in diameter, are the clearest symptom. They can cluster and be located outside or inside the lips, inside of your baby's cheeks, in the back of his mouth, the tongue, tonsils and the soft palate. The sores, which are usually very painful and may keep your baby from eating and sleeping well, can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as swollen and bleeding gums, excess drooling, irritability, high fever and bad breath. Plus, in severe cases, your little one's lymph nodes, found on the sides of the neck, may be inflamed.
What can I do to relieve him?
For a start, forget about using antibiotics, because these baby mouth ulcers are caused by virus. Yes, it may sound obvious, but some people end up misusing them. That said, these are the most common treatments to fight mouth infections in babies:
- Acetaminophen: such a pain reliever, adapted to infants, can help him cope with the pain and lower the fever, and so can ibuprofen. If your little one is under 3 months old, follow your doctor's advice. You could also provide him with oral gel to treat the sores. Ah, and avoid using aspirin at all costs, as it can trigger Reye's syndrome, a rare but very serious condition that causes swelling in the brain and the liver.
- Fluids and more fluids: when a baby has painful sores in his mouth, eating is the least thing he may want to do. And, of course, that can lead to other problems, like dehydration. Don't hesitate to give him extra doses of milk or formula, along with noncarbonated drinks if he's more than four months old. If he doesn't take any liquid or pee for more than six hours, he could be at a high risk of dehydration.
Encourage your child to eat by giving him mashed foods, like mashed potatoes, applesauce, yoghurt and other soft foods, so that he doesn't have to chew on them, which could worsen his pain. Avoid salty products, as they could cause him a burning feeling.
When to worry about baby mouth ulcer
Though this is pretty rare, there are times when a viral infection caused by herpes can also affect your child's eyes, which is known as herpes simplex keratitis and requires immediate medical attention, as it can provoke eye damage. You should also take your child to the doctor if you notice any signs of dehydration, like dry mouth, decreased number of wet nappies, sleepiness and less elasticity in the baby's skin.
Typically, baby mouth ulcer clears up on its own, above all when the child is properly treated. However, if the sores last more than two weeks and the condition includes symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes and rash, it's time to call the doctor.
All in all, baby mouth ulcer can be a little heart-breaking, as it's not easy for parents to see their children in such conditions, with their mouths full of nasty sores that cause them so much discomfort. Nevertheless, keep in mind that, by being so visible, the sores are also far easier to detect and treat. If you follow the right steps, your baby will be smiling again before you know it.