Did you know that cold sores can affect a child’s oral health? Cold sores are caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus type 1(HSV-1). They often appear on the lips and around the mouth. Sometimes the pain caused by the sores can impact the desire to continue with regular brushing and flossing. The majority of people are exposed to the virus between one and five years of age—making kids the prime candidates.

  1. Prevent the Spread

HSV-1 can be prevented if you pay close attention to its triggers and educate yourself on how the virus is spread. The following are the most common ways that the virus is spread:

  1. Skin-to-skin contact

Hugging, holding hands, and high-fiving are all means of spreading viruses such as HSV-1. Any time an infected person touches a non-infected person, there is a risk of spreading the virus.

  1. Saliva

Sharing drinks and kissing are major means of spreading the virus! Make sure that if you have a cold sore, or if you know someone with a cold sore, that you are drinking your own drinks and refrain from kissing.

  1. Indirect physical contact

If someone with the virus touches an object and you touch that same object, you are putting yourself at risk for catching this virus. If you think you have touched something that someone with a cold sore has also touched, make sure to wash your hands with antibacterial soap and/or use hand sanitizer.

  1. Avoid Triggers

Once someone has been infected with a cold sore, the virus can actually stay in the body, even if you have no symptoms. Certain environmental and physical triggers can cause the virus to reactivate if it has been dormant in the body. The following triggers can cause an outbreak:

  1. Cold and flu

A cold or the flu have a negative effect on the immune system, making it harder for the body to suppress the HSV-1 virus. If you or your child have a cold or the flu, make sure to get enough rest and drink plenty of fluids to keep the immune system strong.

  1. Exposure to sunlight, heat, cold or dry air

Any of the above environmental factors can bring on an outbreak. In the winter, it’s important to keep the skin and lips moisturized to seal out dry air. In the summer, staying out of intense heat and sunlight can also be helpful to avoid an outbreak.

  1. Stress

Stress also diminishes the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria, so it is best to avoid stressful situations to prevent a cold sore.

Other common triggers include (but are not limited to) injuries to the skin, dehydration, and hormone fluctuations.

  1. Treat Discomfort

Discomfort due to a cold sore can be treated! Try some of these tips to ease pain:

  1. Apply an ice pack (wrapped in a towel to avoid burns) or a warm compress to the sore to relieve soreness.
  2. If your child is the one with the virus, ask a pediatrician for pain reliever recommendations—if your child is of age, they may be able to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen medications.
  3. Ice pops can relieve pain and also help to hydrate the body.

Any pain from a cold sore can be exacerbated when practicing dental hygiene routines. Therefore, treating the symptoms not only provides relief but will help prevent dental caries as well. If you suspect your child has a cavity, schedule your child’s pediatric dental appointment online here!

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