What is it with Cold Sores and Kids? Causes and Cures

Cold sores are also known as fever blisters and it is commonly known to be caused by a virus.

The question to be answered is this; why do some people get cold sores?  Or in particular why do some children get cold sores?

The statistics are interesting and also somewhat confusing.  When you read that 80% of us have a latent HPV -1 or herpes simplex virus type 1 it does not seem to make sense. However, when you realise that an actual cold sore attack can appear days, weeks or even years after exposure to the virus does it make more sense.

Before we continue looking at some of statistics, causes, cures and so on check out the best over the counter cold sore cure treatments here.

Worst case scenario

At their worst cold sores can spread to fingers and eyes, so watch out! Any formation of sores around the eyes will need urgent medical attention.

The very worst onset is called gingivostomatitis causing fever, swollen lymph glands and several blisters inside the mouth making it difficult to eat and drink, it goes without saying to take your infant to the Doctor if these symptoms occur.

If you have a child susceptible to cold sores you need to ensure they get into very good hygienic practices.

Types of Herpes Virus

Although there are 8 different types of human herpes virus, we are only really concerned with the recurring Virus HSV-1.  (HSV-2 can occur on mouth and genitals, although again not really associated or to be confused with the common HSV-1)

The first outbreak is usually the worst so can seem alarming for a child or parent/guardian. It may come with fever, swollen glands, sore throat, upset tummy, headache, vomiting or nausea.

Medical names

If you happen to glance at your child’s medical notes do not be alarmed to see cold sores referred to as oral herpes, labial herpes, herpes labialis or herpes febrilis.

How

The main body fluid involved in transmitting this virus is saliva.  Although it is unlikely to be contracted from a parent or other caregiver and more likely to be spread by kids variable hygiene habits it is worth mentioning that it can happen.  A very small child can be susceptible if they already have any injury or skin problem such as eczema or diaper rash. The best advice is to always take extra care with applying zinc creams or emollient creams with a very young infant.

No one really knows why the virus remains latent in many people (hidden in the facial nerves of the nervous system) and why it can recur in others.

There may be some genetic factors but it does not seem to be particularly hereditary.  Perhaps adults knowing they have the latent virus are more likely to be careful not to infect other people.  Some of it will be due the combined parents immune system, some people are lucky to have parents who have different immune systems offering a good combination of immunity from many diseases.

With children it can be stress, trauma, fever, colds and sunburn that trigger the cold sore to rear its head.  Food allergies and some food sensitivities may cause an outbreak.

The first sign

The first time your infant suffers it will be worse and can last up to 14 days and is best treated by a physician rather than trying to treat it yourself.

Thankfully if they get recurring outbreaks of cold sores it is not usually as bad as the first time.

Early treatment

The earlier the treatment starts the better. Treatment will reduce the time factor and pain. Children will feel the sensation beneath the skin, around the mouth or base of nose, this is prodrome stage.

  • Day 1 is prodrome described above, time to start treatment
  • Day 2 or 3 the blistering will appear. The blisters are usually on the border of the lip, occasionally on the roof of the mouth
  • Day 4 is ulceration or weeping stage, the blister is reddish and inflamed, it is the most contagious time
  • Day 5 to 8 is when the blister starts to dry up causing a crust or scab, this is just due to antibodies (usually yellow or brown)
  • Day 9 to 14 is the healing stage when the scabs form, you have to discourage your infant from picking these scabs to try and keep it clean and let it heal

Self help

  • Sores should be washed twice a day with warm, soapy water and gently dried. A bandage may help to prevent scratching and spreading the virus.
  • You can use ice to ease the pain.
  • Zinc ointment can aid healing.
  • Extra fluids can help
  • Plenty of sleep is healing
  • Your pediatrician can advise on any other painkillers suitable for the age of your infant

If you have this problem within the family you do need to be more vigilant with hygiene.  Your local health care practice can advise you.  You can seek help with available treatments in the link above.

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