Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) creates painful blisters in or around the mouth, and is present in nearly everyone. In fact, according to the Pediatric Dental Health site, over 60 percent of Americans are infected with HSV-1 during adolescence. Most people are infected for the first time between the ages of three months and six years.
During the first infection, known as primary herpetic gingivostomatitis, a child develops painful blisters that appear on the tongue or roof of the mouth. The Pediatric Dental Health site reports that a child’s gums will become red and a toddler may run a fever when he or she develops the first infection.
The oral herpes simplex virus-1 infection that occurs after this initial outbreak is not as severe and is commonly referred to as a cold sore or fever blister. Once the cold sore or fever blister breaks out on a person’s face, it is referred to as herpes simplex labialis.
According to the KidsHealth website, children can pick up the HSV-1 virus by kissing another adult or child with the virus, playing with contaminated toys, or sharing utensils, glassware, towels, or napkins with an infected person.
Since the cold sore virus is highly contagious, it is important to remind your child to wash hands frequently, particularly after touching a fever blister. Children should also take care to keep hands away from their eyes and genitals since the HSV-1 can spread to other areas of the body.
Once a child gets the herpes simplex virus-1, it remains in the body and he or she will occasionally experience an outbreak of cold sores throughout adolescence and adulthood. Pediatric Dental Health mentions several possible triggers that can lead to an outbreak of cold sores. Not eating properly, dealing with the stress of school and exams, getting a cold and feeling run-down, or even spending time in the sun can all trigger a fever blister.
KidsHealth recommends offering your child cool food or drinks to help relieve the discomfort from a cold sore. A non-aspirin pain reliever like acetaminophen may also help. Your doctor or pharmacist may also recommend an over-the-counter product to shorten the duration of the cold sore outbreak.
KidsHealth advises parents to notify their child’s doctor if he or she seems to get cold sores frequently; if your child’s cold sores appear near the eyes; or if the fever blisters have not healed up within 7 to 10 days.
Pediatric Dental Health. Oral Herpes and Cold Sores in Children. Web. 14, Nov. 2011. http://dentalresource.org/topic52herpes.htm
KidsHealth. Cold Sores. Web. 14, Nov. 2011. http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/skin/cold_sores.html#
Reviewed November 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith