Cold Sores in Children and Teenagers

Most people contract the cold sore virus (HSV1) when they are young and it is spread in saliva or mucus that comes from the nose and mouth. Cold sores can be particularly severe for babies but usually the initial infection in young children is so mild that it goes unnoticed. There may be blisters in the mouth. It is obviously important to protect your small children from picking up the cold sore virus in the first place

It is very difficult to isolate your small child from the possibility of contracting cold sores as well as other infections. It is also important to know that spreading the virus within the family unit itself is common.

If your child is attending a child care facility or perhaps a “mothers and babies" group, try to ascertain if there is a policy in place (a) to ensure that all children and adults use good hand washing practices with no sharing of towels (b) to exclude a child suffering from cold sores until these are healed and (c) to remove from the play area any toys that are put into the mouth, and that they are then disinfected.

If you are borrowing or renting toys from the public library or toy rental library, then take care to disinfect all the items immediately after you reach home and before your children have a chance to play with them. It would be a kind gesture to repeat the disinfecting routine before returning them again at the end of the loan or rental period.

Cold sores – an embarrassment for teenagers

Those years between 13 and 19 can be the “wonder years" for so many teenagers but on the other hand, there are so many things that can go wrong or that can cause pain and embarrassment. One of these is the appearance of cold sores. The cycle of a cold sore takes about ten days but a teenager suffering from cold sores on the face can feel this is a very long time and the cause of considerable embarrassment. The good news is that if you feel a cold sore coming on, the following tips can help in making the cold sore feel better:

  • Take a non prescriptive pain reliever.
  • Resist the temptation to lick or touch the area while keeping it as dry and clean as possible. An alcohol solution can help.
  • Wrap some ice in a damp, clean cloth and apply this to the cold sore.
  • Try a moistened tea bag pressed on the cold sore every few minutes – the tannic acid in the tea has antiviral properties
  • Avoid eating acidic food – for example lemons, grapefruit.
  • Make sure to protect the area from the sun and wind.

This virus and therefore the cold sores themselves are very contagious. The virus can be spread by kissing as well as sharing food, crockery, drinking cups and glasses, towels, toothbrushes and of course touching the blisters themselves. It is very important for sexually active teenagers to know that although cold sores are generally caused by Herpes Simplex virus 1 and genital herpes is usually caused by Herpes Simplex Virus 2, both types can infect the genital areas causing painful sores. Therefore a teenager suffering from cold sores is strongly advised to avoid oral sex.