Cold Sores and Your Child – What You Should Know

Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Carrie Shannon is the publisher of, a website devoted to providing information on safe and effective remedies for cold sores and fever blisters. In her spare time you can find Carrie walking her Yorkies, Oscar and Maggie, near her home in Hermosa Beach, CA.

kids cold sore remedies

Teach your child how to deal with her cold sore outbreaks.

Cold sores can cause pain and upset to children, but if you educate your kids about them and teach them how to take care of a cold sore when one appears, they probably won’t seem quite so scary and upsetting. The herpes simplex virus I most often causes the common cold sore, also called a fever blister.

These sores occur in and around the mouth and can cause quite a bit of pain if left untreated. Nothing can eliminate the herpes virus from the body, once infected, but it does return to a dormant state after each outbreak. Even though no true cure exists for herpes infection, you and our child have a multitude of ways at your disposal to treat and prevent cold sore outbreaks.

Help Your Child to Understand

The first step involves helping your child understand, in an age appropriate way, what causes this sore on his or her lip. You can find numerous great resources to help with this at your pediatrician’s in the form of pamphlets; or you can utilize trusted online sources for information from sites like Web MD and the Mayo Clinic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) online resource even has detailed guide sheets you can easily access and print.

Help your child understand that he’s not alone and that the fever blister will heal before too long. In fact, some studies indicate that nearly 80 percent of all children will have at least one cold sore during their childhood.

Create a Cold Sore Treatment Kit

Take the time to teach your child how to handle a cold sore as soon as one appears. Sometimes, busy parents don’t notice them right away, especially if the child goes to a daycare or some type of practice for sports, dance, etc., after school. When your schedule requires you rush from one place to the next, it’s easy to miss seeing a new cold sore right away, especially if it hasn’t fully developed yet.

Chat with your child to help him understand what causes cold sores.

Collect and gather a few essentials and place them into a small drawer or container that includes everything your child needs to address a cold sore. Include alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and cotton swabs or balls. Of course, only allow your child use this cold sore kit if he’s at least 8 years old. But, even if you have young children, having a kit ready allows you to have everything you need in one spot so you can efficiently treat outbreaks on younger kids as well.

Keep wrapped, spare toothbrushes in the kit as well, so that when the cold sore heals, your child has a new toothbrush, ready to use. Continuing to use the same toothbrush used while having a cold sore is like eating an entire chocolate cake to celebrate losing 2 pounds.

Contain the Infection

With children, every illness and infection seems to pass from child to child in the blink of an eye. Just like a cold or the flu, cold sores can also pass from one person to the next, rapidly infecting others. Reduce the risk that classmates and your entire family will become infected with cold sores by teaching your child how to keep from sharing them.

First, tell him not to touch the area. Of course, kids will have a difficult time with this, especially if they experience a tingling sensation or pain around the area. Tell your child that touching it will worsen the sore, and can even cause it to spread.

Additionally, let them know that although you, grandma and everyone else in the family appreciate his or her kisses very much, he must save these sweet signs of affection for after the cold sore has healed. The fastest way to spread the herpes virus is through kissing, so at the first sign of redness, tell them that their charming smile will take the place of a kiss for now, or you can always create a fun handshake for these times.

Evaluate Your Child’s Diet

Many parents do not realize that diet and nutrition play a significant role in herpes outbreaks. So although you can’t cure them, you can reduce your child’s risk of dealing with them frequently.

As is you didn’t have a ton of other reasons to reduce the sugar intake in your child’s diet, here’s one more. Sugar can trigger and reactivate the virus from its dormant state. If your child regularly consumes sugary snacks, juice, and soda, an overload of sugar in his diet may trigger his outbreaks.

You’ll also need to reduce his or her intake of “no sugar added” simple carbohydrates, such as high sugar fruits, potatoes, corn, etc., because of their naturally high sugar content. While you shouldn’t severely limit carbohydrates and dessert, consider reducing the frequency that you offer these items to your child.

If your child eats a lot of nuts, reduce the portion to a handful, at the most. They contain the amino acid, arginine, which can activate a dormant herpes virus. Make sure his diet includes plenty of protein-rich foods that contain lysine, such as fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb, bison and wild game. The amino acid, lysine, inhibits activity of the herpes simplex virus responsible for causing cold sores. Balance out his diet with a pediatrician recommended multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Image credits: All Media Freelance, LLC and stayathomemoms dot about dot com

  1. #1 by Claudia on March 11, 2012 - 4:33 PM

    This is a great post on how to deal with cold sores. My favorite reminder (probably because I am a dentist ;-) is to make sure that you have a stash of new toothbrushes available in your home to give out when the cold sore has healed….excellent reminder. The same holds true for when a cold is over as well. You don’t want to reintroduce the virus back into the system once you are well again!
    Thanks for a great post Carrie!