Canker sores or aphthous ulcers are shallow sores, which can be found inside the mouth, tongue, cheeks, lips or throat. Canker sores occur in 1 out of 5 people, and if you get canker sores from time to time, your child will also have a 90% chance of having them at some point. And although canker sores are not at all contagious, parents should not ignore it because children may feel pain, especially when eating, drinking or even talking.
Canker sores are different from cold sores or fever blisters, because it is not caused by the herpes simplex virus. The cause of canker sores is not really known, but certain factors are thought to put a person at risk. Women are more predisposed to having canker sores as compared to men. Some girls or women may also get canker sores at the start of their period. It may also develop in individuals who are deficient in folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron. Stress or mouth injuries may also put a person at risk for developing canker sores.
Canker sores appear as small or large shallow ulcers, which have a red border and a white or yellow center. Some individuals get more than one canker sore at a time, and they tend to occur among women, teenagers, or young adults. Canker sores are painful, but the pain can be worse during the first 3 to 4 days. For minor canker sores, healing can occur in 1 to 3 weeks, while major canker sores can take up to 6 weeks to heal. Rarely, canker sores are accompanied by other symptoms like fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, or a slight feeling of being ill.
Canker sores do not really warrant a visit to the doctor, but you need to take your child for a check-up if it keeps him from eating or drinking. You also need to have your child checked by a doctor if the canker sore has lasted more than 2 weeks. A doctor may check your child for any nutritional deficiencies, food allergies or any immune system problems.
Since canker sores can cause due discomfort especially when eating or drinking, parents need to prepare food, so that a child can tolerate eating. Prepare bland foods that are soft, so that it is easier to swallow. You may cut, mash or puree food items, so that kids don’t have to chew as much as they should.
While the canker sore has not healed, try to have your child avoid eating chocolate, spicy or salty food, nuts and seeds. Likewise, have him avoid eating citrus fruits or drinking citrus juices. These food items may only cause a stinging pain, when it comes in contact with the canker sores. You may instead have your child drink cold fluids, or even eat popsicles because it can numb the sore. You may also have your child use a straw when drinking, so that any irritating fluid will not get in contact with the sore.
There are many over the counter remedies available, which may help shorten the duration of canker sores. These medications may be swished, gargled or painted in the mouth. Thus, it may not be ideal to give a young child these medications if he is still unable to follow specific directions. While these medications can be readily available, it is still best to consult your doctor before giving any medication to a child.
Since canker sores can really be disturbing, try to take measures so that your child can avoid it. Ask your child to eat slowly and carefully because canker sores may develop after a mouth injury. It may also help if you have your child avoid food items, which can be harsh on the mouth. These may be corn or potato chips or nuts, and other food items that contain a lot of acid. It is also important that your child has a well-balanced diet, so that nutritional deficiencies can be prevented.
Children and even adults can get canker sores, and although it does not lead to any serious illness, the pain can be disturbing for a child. Thus, parents need to make sure that children get enough nutrients from their diet, and that proper oral care is also observed. After all, healthy habits go a long way in terms of keeping many illnesses away.