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Mouth ulcers are often seen in both children and adults. The reason behind these ulcers could be non-specific or an infectious systemic condition. This is why the sudden appearance of mouth ulcers should not be ignored and possible causes ascertained.

Mouth ulcers or mouth sores are small white or red bumps that may be present on the inner lip, inner cheek, tongue, or even on the outer lip line. They may be associated with a rash or sores in other parts of the body as well. There can be a number of reasons why they may appear.

Mouth ulcers may or may not be painful in nature and are usually self-limiting. In some cases, though, an underlying contagious disease could be the cause of the mouth ulcers — hence correct diagnosis by a pediatrician or a dentist is required.

Causes of mouth ulcers in children

  • A viral infection.
  • Injury due to a toothbrush, or braces.
  • A vitamin deficiency, usually associated with deficiency of vitamin B.
  • Celiac disease or Inflammatory bowel disorder
  • A burn due to intake of very hot food.
  • As a side effect of a medication.
  • Fungal infection such as oral thrush.
  • A dental abscess in relation to an infected tooth may be mistaken for a mouth ulcer.
  • An allergic reaction to a new food item.

Different types of mouth ulcers in children

  • Aphthous ulcers. These are also known as canker sores. One or two such ulcers may occur inside the mouth at a time. They may be up to six millimeters in diameter and usually are red, white or grey in color. Aphthous ulcers are painful in nature but are not contagious. The reason for their occurrence may be an injury, stress-related, or due to a vitamin deficiency. They can take up to two weeks to heal and symptomatic treatment to relieve the pain may be given. ly found in children over five years of age
  • Ulcers due to the Herpes Simplex Virus. The first infection this virus causes can be severe in nature. Eight to 10 ulcers may occur at the same time. The ulcers may be inside the mouth as well as on the lips or on the skin around the mouth. The child may be lethargic and have a fever as well. First exposure to this virus usually occurs between one to three years of age due to kisses from an adult with cold sores.
  • Cold sores. Also known as fever blisters, they are fluid-filled blisters which usually appear on the lip due to repeat infection of the Herpes Simplex virus. They may recur two or three times a year in the same place, usually after or during a period of illness and low immunity. If a child or adult with active cold sores kisses another child, then they may transfer the Herpes Simplex virus to them.
  • Hand, foot and mouth disease. This is caused by the Coxsackie virus. Multiple ulcers may be found in the mouth and throat and will be accompanied by blisters or rash on the palm, soles of feet and buttocks as well. It is usually accompanied by a low-grade fever. This is usually seen in children between one to five years in age. It is highly contagious in nature and takes about one to weeks to disappear.
  • Oral thrush. This causes whitish-yellow bumps on the inner lining of the cheeks which cannot be wiped away, and may bleed on scraping. They may be mistaken for ulcers.
  • Dental abscess: A dental abscess due to an infected tooth may be mistaken for a mouth ulcer as well. The location of a dental abscess will be on the gum below an infected or decayed tooth and usually will be accompanied by tooth pain.

Symptoms of mouth ulcers in children

  • The ulcers may be painful, due to which your child may be unable to eat well. Pain on swallowing fluids may also be present in case there are ulcers in the throat.
  • The child may be lethargic and low-grade fever may be present.

Treatment of mouth ulcers in children

Mouth ulcers should not be ignored. Take your child to the pediatrician or dentist if you see any signs and symptoms of mouth ulcers. Correct diagnosis of the cause of the mouth ulcers leads to the correct treatment.
  • Mouth gels containing anesthetic will give pain relief. Paracetamol or acetaminophen may be prescribed for fever. Ibuprofen may be prescribed for pain. An antacid may also be needed.
  • Multivitamin tablets are useful in the treatment of any suspected vitamin deficiency.
  • Antiviral drugs may be prescribed for viral infections.
  • In case braces or a sharp tooth is causing the injury leading to an ulcer, that has to be taken care of.
  • If it is suspected that a particular medication may be causing the ulcers then the offending medication is stopped.
  • The child will need cold and soft, non-spicy food. Yogurt and other probiotics will be helpful.


Mouth ulcers in children can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may include infections which are contagious, so please keep the child at home away from other children. Viral infections can recur as well but are usually self-limiting. Schools and daycare centers are breeding grounds for viral infections. Keep the child at home in case of any fever or cold. Regular washing of hands is a great habit to keeping infections away.

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