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Canker Sores in Children


Canker sores are painful sores in the mouth. They can be very small or up to a half inch wide. They may form on the inside of the cheeks, gums, lips, tongue, or the floor or roof of the mouth. Canker sores can take many shapes but they are usually round or oval with a yellowish center. They may have a raised red border. They are painful and very sensitive to touch and to spicy or salty foods.


The exact cause of canker sores is not known. They may happen because your child is not getting enough of certain nutrients in the diet, such as vitamin B12, folic acid, or iron. Other possible causes are hot foods or drinks, viruses or bacteria, an immune system problem, and food allergies. Your child might also get canker sores from biting his tongue or cheek. Your child may be more likely to have canker sores when he is feeling stressed.


Because the cause of canker sores is not known, there is no specific treatment to cure them. It may help to take a nonprescription pain-relief medicine, such as acetaminophen. Treatment may also include:

  • Rinsing with an anesthetic mouthwash containing lidocaine.
  • Using a prescription steroid cream or tablet to help the sores go away more quickly, or
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen. Children under 18 years of age should not take aspirin or products that contain aspirin unless recommended by a healthcare provider because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.

Canker sores usually heal without special treatment in a week or two. Your child may recover sooner if he drinks plenty of fluids, takes vitamins, and avoids stress. Try to avoid spicy or salty foods, coffee, and citrus fruits. For infants, give fluids by cup or spoon rather than from a bottle because sucking can be painful. The sores do not cause scarring.


Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


HIA File oral3804.htm Release 13/2010

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