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Gingivostomatitis In Children

What is gingivostomatitis?

Gingivostomatitis (GS) is a condition that causes painful sores on the lips, tongue, gums, and inside the mouth. GS is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus spreads easily through saliva (spit), shared toys, drink cups, or eating utensils. The mouth sores make swallowing painful, so your child may not want to eat or drink. The sores usually heal within 2 weeks. Medicines can help relieve the pain and help your child feel better.

What other signs and symptoms may happen with GS?

Aside from painful mouth sores, your child may have any of the following:

  • Fever over 100°F (38°C)

  • More drooling than usual

  • Sore throat and loss of appetite

  • Gums that are swollen, red, or bleeding

  • Bad breath

  • Headache

  • Tiredness

How is GS diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and examine him. GS is usually diagnosed based on the exam. A sample of fluid or tissue from the sores may show the cause of your child's infection.

How is GS treated?

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

  • Numbing medicine helps decrease pain so your child can eat or drink more easily. If your child is old enough, he may swish the liquid around his mouth and then spit it into the sink. You also can put the medicine on the mouth sores with a cotton swab. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give numbing medicine to your child.

  • Antiviral medicine helps treat a viral infection.

How is GS managed?

  • Clean your child's teeth and tongue. Bad breath and a coated tongue are common problems with GS. Gently and carefully brush your child's teeth each day. Ask your healthcare provider about a rinse to kill germs in your child's mouth.

  • Give your child cool, bland foods and liquids. Encourage your child to eat and drink, even though his mouth is sore. Applesauce, gelatin, or frozen treats are good choices. Do not give your child salty or acidic foods and drinks, such as orange juice. Do not give your child hard foods, such as popcorn, chips, or pretzels. Ask your healthcare provider about nutrient drinks if your child cannot eat.

  • Avoid spreading the virus to others. Wash your and your child's hands often. Do not share food or drinks. Clean all toys and utensils often. You may need to keep your child home from school or day care.

  • Help your child rest as much as possible.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has a seizure.

  • Your child is weak or sleepy at all times and is hard to wake up.

  • Your child's breathing is rapid, and his skin feels hot or cold to the touch.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child will not eat or drink.

  • Your child has no tears when he cries.

  • You see fewer wet diapers, or your child urinates less often than usual.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's fever returns, even with medicine.

  • Your child develops an upset stomach, diarrhea, rash, or a headache after taking medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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