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Herpes Gingivostomatitis in Children

What is it? Herpes (her-pees) gingivostomatitis (jin-jih-vuh-sto-muh-ti-tis) is a mouth infection. It is also called herpetic (her-peh-tik) stomatitis. This infection is common in young children. Your child may get this infection many times in his lifetime. Herpes gingivostomatitis is different from hand-foot-and-mouth disease and from herpangina. These diseases also have blisters in the mouth, but are caused by other viruses.

Causes: This infection is caused by a germ called a virus. Herpes is the name of the virus which causes the infection. This is the same virus that causes cold sores on the face or lips.

Signs and Symptoms: Your child may have sore open blisters and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, or hard palate. The hard palate is the front part of the roof of your child's mouth. He may have a high fever and feel tired. It may be hard for your child to eat and swallow because of the pain. Your child may also have bad breath and a sore throat. The blisters usually heal in 1 to 2 weeks.

Care: You may give your child ibuprofen (i-bew-pro-fin) and acetaminophen (uh-c-tuh-min-o-fin) for his pain. These may be bought as over-the-counter medicine at grocery stores and drug stores. Do NOT give your child aspirin. Do not give your child ibuprofen if he is allergic to aspirin, has ulcers or kidney disease. You may also be given medicine to put on your child's sores. You may be asked to help your child rinse or gargle his mouth and throat with salt water.

  • Give your child cool liquids to drink. This may help soothe the mouth and numb the pain. Good choices are milk, milkshakes, and clear liquids. Do not give citrus or carbonated drinks, such as orange or grapefruit juice, lemonade, or soda. These liquids will cause your child's mouth to hurt more. Your child may want to use a straw if he has blisters on the lips or end of the tongue.
  • Your child may not feel like eating solid foods until his mouth feels better. Feed your child soft foods. Good choices are strained baby foods, soft fruits, mashed potatoes, applesauce, yogurt, and pudding. Your child should not eat salty, spicy, and hard foods.
  • After each meal, rinse your child's mouth with warm water.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. This is especially important after going to the bathroom, before preparing food, and before eating.
  • Wash any toys that your child puts in his mouth before and after your child plays with them.
  • To keep from spreading the virus, tell your child not to share his toothbrush, drinks, or food with others. He should also wash his hands before eating and after going to the bathroom.

Call Caregivers If:

  • Your child will not drink and can not swallow.
  • Your child has pus or bleeding from the mouth.
  • Your child has a temperature over 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Your child becomes more irritable or will not stop crying.

Seek Care Immediately If:

  • Your child has a temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.
  • Your child is dehydrated (dry) from not getting enough fluids. Following are ways to tell if your child is dehydrated.
    • He has not urinated in 8 hours.
    • The soft spot on the top of the head is sunken (in babies).
    • No tears when crying.
    • Lips are dry and cracked.
  • Your child is weak or sleepy and hard to wake up.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about herpes and how it can be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

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