Viral gingivostomatitis (mouth sores, sore gums)

Viral gingivostomatitis (mouth sores, sore gums)

Herpes simplex virus causes blisters or "cold sores" on your child's lips and mouth (viral gingivostomatitis). Anyone at any age can get herpes.

If your child has lots of mouth sores, eating and drinking may be difficult or painful. You need to make sure your child gets plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Symptoms of herpes simplex are:

  • fever
  • lots of sores or ulcers over the lips inside the mouth or on the tongue
  • swollen gums that can bleed
  • swollen neck glands

Your child can spread this virus by mouth contact of any kind and skin-to-skin contact with an open sore on an infected person.

How to make your child more comfortable

  • Give your child extra liquids. Avoid acidic juices such as orange juice.
  • Give your child soft foods like soups, custard, Popsicles®, ice cream, pudding and yogurt.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) as needed for pain. Follow package directions for your child's weight and age.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child has any signs of dehydration:

  • dry mouth
  • no tears when crying
  • sunken eyes
  • lack of urination or a dry diaper for more than eight hours
  • unusual sleepiness or fussiness

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. For inclusivity, this guide uses "them" and "their."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016