Skip to main content

Gingivostomatitis in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

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, 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.


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 or her skin feels hot or cold to the touch.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child will not eat or drink.
  • Your child has no tears when he or she cries.
  • You see fewer wet diapers, or your child urinates less often than usual.

Contact your child's 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 questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • 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. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. 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 or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Numbing medicine helps decrease pain so your child can eat or drink more easily. If your child is old enough, he or she may swish the liquid around his or her 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.
  • Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he or she has the flu or a fever and takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin or salicylates.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell the provider if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • 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 or her 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 nutrition 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.
  • Have your child rest as much as possible. Rest will help him or her heal.

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

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

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 Gingivostomatitis

Treatment options

Care guides

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.