Common causes of mouth sores in kids

Your child complains of pain in their mouth. When you look inside, you see a mouth sore. What is it? And is it cause for concern? There are several types of mouth sores to look out for, and each has some defining characteristics. Here are some common causes of mouth sores in a child and what they mean. 


Cold sore 


Cold sores are red, raised bumps around the mouth or lips. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). They’re usually painful and may be preceded by a tingling feeling in the area the cold sore eventually shows up in. Eventually, the sores may burst and then become crusty as they dry up. 


Hand foot and mouth disease 


If your child has multiple small red bumps inside their mouth, look around the rest of their body spots in other areas, especially the hands and feet, for similar red bumps. This could be hand foot and mouth disease. This disease usually occurs in children under the age of 5. You can read more about hand foot and mouth disease and its other symptoms here


Canker sores


These small, shallow, painful sores don’t have a known cause, but they can be triggered by things like injuries to the mouth, stress, and vitamin deficiencies. They are characterized by a white or yellow center with a red border. They can be located on any soft tissue within the mouth, including the tongue, gums, palate, and inside of the mouth. They usually will go away within a week or two on their own with no treatment. 


Oral thrush


If your child’s tongue looks white, it could be a case of oral thrush. Oral thrush is a yeast infection that affects the inside of the mouth and tongue. The white bumps inside the mouth will be able to be scraped off. This occurs most commonly in infants and sometimes in children. Contact your child’s pediatrician for treatment if you suspect your child has oral thrush. 




This infection affects the mouth and gums, resulting in swelling in these two areas as well as sores that resemble canker sores. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe mouth pain. Fever, bad breath, and drooling can also occur in kids with gingivostomatitis. The cause of gingivostomatitis is usually a viral infection.


If you have any concerns about a sore outside or inside your child’s mouth, contact your child’s pediatrician or take your child to your local pediatric urgent care where it can be checked out.

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