Cold Sores in Kids: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Virus) in Children

Cold sores are small blisters around the lips and mouth. Cold sores, also known as herpes simplex virus, are common viral infections in children. If you want to learn more about this condition and how it affects a child, read the following post.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores or fever blisters are small blisters that appear around the lips or mouth of a child. Sometimes, these blisters may even appear on the nose, chin and cheeks too. These small liquid-filled blisters ooze out when the blisters break, and a crust forms over the sore and they heal within a couple of weeks.

What Are the Causes of Cold Sores in Children?

Cold sores are caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus type 2 or HSV-1. There are two kinds of HSV viruses – HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both these viruses can cause sores on the different parts of the body. Cold sores occurring because of HSV-2 virus are a very rare phenomenon.

What Are the Symptoms of Cold Sores in a Child?

Following are the symptoms of cold sores in children:

  • The child may have a low-grade fever (100 degrees or lower).
  • The child may experience repeated itching around the mouth or the lips.
  • The blisters may appear in clusters around the child’s lips, mouth, chin or cheeks.
  • The child’s mouth may feel sore.
  • The child may appear tired or lethargic.

These are some evident symptoms that may help you know that your child is suffering from cold sores.

A child with fever

How Is It Diagnosed?

The following ways can help in diagnosing the condition:

  • The simplest way of diagnosing the condition is by visual inspection. The doctor will check your child’s blisters.
  • The doctor may like to test the fluid or the scraping of the sore to establish the presence of the virus.
  • In case, the above two methods do not provide conclusive results; your child’s doctor may like to conduct a blood test to detect the presence of the virus.

What Are the Possible Risks of Cold Sores in Children?

Here are some complications that may arise due to this condition in children:

1. HSV Keratitis

This is a condition that may occur if the child touches his eye after touching the blisters. The virus can reach the cornea. Though in most cases the damage is not that severe, however, in some cases it may lead to partial or total blindness.

2. Eczema Herpeticum

Children who develop cold sores along with eczema are at a greater risk of developing a more severe level of eczema called eczema herpeticum. This condition is not only very painful, but it can also take longer to heal.

3. Encephalitis

This fatal condition may occur if the virus reaches the brain, which could manifest a latent infection. This condition may cause inflammation of the brain that can lead to seizures and other fatal complications. The chances of developing Encephalitis because of HSV type 1 virus is rare but can result in brain damage.

How Are Cold Sores Treated in a Child?

If you are looking for treatment options for cold sores, you must understand that the remedies for cold sores in a child can only help in reducing the intensity and prevent it from further spreading. There is no specific treatment for the sores per se. These are a few options your doctor may suggest:

  • Antiviral cream to fasten the healing process and help in slowing the virus from spreading.
  • Oral medications can be given to reduce the symptoms. The doctor will determine the duration of the dosage according to the severity of the symptoms.
  • In case a secondary infection is observed, your doctor may recommend antibiotic medicines. He may also prescribe antipyretic medicines to reduce fever.

Prevention Tips

Here are some ways of preventing cold sores in kids:

  • Do not let the child come in direct contact with the infected person.
  • Refrain from taking your child to the crowded areas as the virus tends to spread faster in such places.
  • Wash your child’s clothes separately and refrain from sharing any clothing item with him.
  • In case, if you suffer from cold sores, wash your hands before touching your child and also wear a mouth and nose mask to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • If you suffer from this infection during pregnancy make sure you take proper medication to prevent your baby from getting exposed to the herpes virus at birth.

What Can Parents Do to Manage Cold Sores in Children?

Here are some home remedies for cold sores in children:

  • Wash your child’s hands frequently to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body.
  • Cold sores on child’s lips, chin, cheeks or nose should be washed regularly as this may help in preventing the infection from spreading.
  • Cold sores can be painful. Applying an ice pack on the affected areas may help ease the itching and pain.
  • If the sores are painful and your child feels uncomfortable, you can ask your doctor to prescribe some painkiller medicines.
  • Cold sores on a baby’s mouth should be cleaned with saline water because babies tend to drool and it can increase the chances of infection spreading to other body parts.

When to See a Doctor

You can easily manage cold sores at home; however, under the following circumstances you should take your child to a doctor:

  • If your child develops a high-grade fever that is more than 100°Celsius.
  • If your child experiences seizure.
  • If your child feels unconscious.
  • If your child’s lymph nodes (around the neck) swell.
  • If your child does not eat or drink properly.

All the signs mentioned above indicated a medical emergency, and you must take your child to the doctor at the earliest.


If you have some more queries regarding cold sores, in this section, we shall be answering them:

1. Are Cold Sores Contagious?

Yes, just like any viral infection cold sores are contagious too, which means they can easily spread from one person to another through contact. A baby exposed to cold sores may catch the infection. Cold sores are viral infections and viral infections are highly contagious.

2. Can Cold Sores Come Back?

The herpes virus can stay dormant in the nerve cells of the spinal cord and resurface when the external factors trigger the virus. This means cold sores may occur again because of the following factors:

  • If your child lacks proper nutrition.
  • Lack of sleep, stress or fatigue
  • If your child has a cold and flu or is dehydrated.
  • If your child is exposed to intense heat or sunlight.
  • If the weather conditions are very cold or dry.
  • If the child suffers from skin injuries that include breaks and cracks on the skin.

3. Can Babies Get Cold Sores?

Yes, babies can get cold sores just like anyone else. Also, babies are more susceptible because of their immature digestive system. Therefore, if you or anyone in the house has cold sores make sure proper preventive measures are followed to prevent the baby from catching the infection.

Cold sores cause excessive itching and discomfort and thus may cause a lot of trouble to the child. However, avoiding the triggers and maintaining proper hygiene are some of the effective ways of keeping this infection at bay in children.

Also Read:

Herpetic Gingivostomatitis in Children
Home Remedies for Mouth Ulcer in Babies and Children
Canker Sores in Infants & Kids

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