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Primary Herpetic Gingivostomatitis In Children


Children with primary herpetic gingivostomatitis (PHGS) develop many painful sores on the lips, tongue, gums, and inside the mouth.



The sores usually heal within 2 weeks. Your child may be given any of the following:

  • Pain medicine: Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are medicines you can get without a doctor's order. They may decrease your child's pain and fever. Ask how much medicine your child needs and how often to give it.

  • Numbing medicine: Your caregiver may suggest a mixture of medicines to coat (cover) the sores in your child's mouth. The medicines help reduce 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 caregiver how to give numbing medicine to your child.

  • Antivirals help treat or prevent a viral infection.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not helping or if he has side effects. Tell your child's primary healthcare provider if your child takes any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines he takes. Include the amounts, and when and why he takes them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin when he is sick. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

How to manage your primary herpetic gingivostomatitis:

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

  • Offer cool, bland foods and drinks: Your child needs to keep eating and drinking while he has PHGS. Applesauce, gelatin, or frozen treats are good choices. Salty or acidic foods and drinks (such as orange juice) may hurt your child's mouth or throat. Do not feed your child hard foods, such as popcorn, chips, or pretzels. Ask your caregiver about nutrient drinks if your child cannot eat.

  • Avoid spreading the virus to others: Your child and his caregivers should wash their hands often with soap and hot water. Do not share food or drinks. Keep toys and utensils clean. If your child is drooling a lot, keep him home from school or day care.

  • Help your child rest: Your child should rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.

Follow up with your child's primary healthcare provider as directed:

Write down any questions you have so you remember to ask them in your follow-up visits.

Call your child's primary healthcare provider if:

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

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

  • You have other questions about your child's condition or treatment.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child will not eat or drink.

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

  • Your child has no tears when he cries.

  • 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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

Learn more about Primary Herpetic Gingivostomatitis In Children (Discharge Care)