COLD SORES IN CHILDREN
Cold sores which are also known as fever blisters or oral herpes usually start as small blisters that erupt from around the lips and mouth. They may appear on other places too, such as the chin, cheeks, and nose. The blisters usually begin to ooze after some days and then form crusts which heal completely within one to two weeks.
Cold sores are typically caused herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Aside the sores which they cause, they are generally not harmful but highly contagious. The virus can spread through saliva, skin-to-skin contact, or by handling an object that has been touched by someone infected with the virus.
SYMPTOMS OF COLD SORES
These symptoms can occur 2 to 12 days after HSV exposure. The first signs of a flare up include tingling, itching, or burning where the cold sore moves toward the skin. An infected child may also have a low grade fever, muscle aches, swollen and tender lymph glands, sore throat, irritability, drooling, a generally ill feeling, one or more small skin blisters. Sometimes the virus causes redness and swelling of the gums, and swollen neck glands.
HSV is dangerous for babies under 6 months of age as their immune systems are not well developed.
In children who have previous history of cold sores, a reoccurrence may be triggered by one of the followings:
- Fatigue and stress
- Exposure to excessive sunlight, heat, cold, or dryness
- Injuries that causes a break in skin
- Illness (i.e., cold or flu)
- Dehydration and poor diet
- Fluctuating hormones
- Ease discomfort: apply ice to the sores to help ease your child’s cold sore pain. Chilled treats such as ice-creams may provide soothing relief to tender lips, avoid dehydration and make kids more comfortable.
- Cold sores are typically not treated. Giving prescribed pain reliefs may however ease pain.
- Acidic foods can irritate cold sores. Ensure your kids avoid them during a cold sore outbreak
- Skin irritation can trigger a cold sore outbreak, so ensure your child uses lotion and a lip balm containing sunscreen or zinc oxide before stepping outdoors.
- Ensure your child gets enough sleep, exercise, and eats a well-balanced diet.
- Help your child manage stress effectively. Stress can increase the likelihood of cold sore outbreaks.
PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF COLD SORES
- Stop the spread: prevent your child from scratching cold sores so s not to spread the virus to other parts of the body, such as fingers and eyes.
- Wash hands and clean toys regularly. Do this also for other children who touch toys and other objects they play with.
- Wash their hands well and often, especially after touching a cold sore.
- During a cold sore flare-up, prevent your child from sharing drinks, towels, toothpaste or other items to avoid spreading the infection through saliva. Wash re-usable items such as towels and linens in hot water after use.
- Separate their drinking glasses and eating utensils, washcloths and towels, from those used by other family members.
- They also should try not to touch their eyes. If HSV infects the eyes, it can be very serious.
- Educate your child not to kiss others until the sores heal.
WHEN YOU SHOULD SEE A DOCTOR
You should see a doctor (a pediatrician) if
- Your child has a known history of chronic skin condition such as eczema.
- Your newborn develops a blister-like rash and fever. It could signify a dangerous, neonatal herpes simplex infection.
- Blisters erupt near your child’s eyes: HSV is the most common cause of corneal infections.
- Your child develops a headache, combined with confusion, seizure or fever during a cold sore outbreak. It could signify a severe brain infection such as meningitis
- The sores do not heal on their own within seven to 10-14 days.
- Your child gets frequent cold sores of about 5-6 outbreaks per year.
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