The herpes simplex virus causes cold sores. It is a common virus that children can spread by sharing toys, coughing and sneezing. Rubbing a cold sore and then touching others may also transmit the virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases recommends covering a cold sore with a bandage to avoid spreading the virus to other children. There are some simple remedies you can use to help ease your child’s discomfort while a cold sore is healing.
Healthy Hygiene Habits
Good nutrition, regular exercise and getting adequate sleep are some of the best ways to prevent cold sores from erupting. The healthier a child is, the less likely she is to get cold sores. If a cold sore does appear, sensible hygiene practices can prevent the spread of the virus to others or to your child’s fingers, eyes or nose. Make sure your child washes her hands with soap and hot water immediately after touching the sore, especially if the cold sore blister is open or weeping. Thoroughly wash in hot water all cups, plates and eating utensils used by your child. Clean toys with a disinfectant, particularly if she is still at an age when she puts toys in her mouth.
Use petroleum jelly or other moisturizing ointment to lubricate the area surrounding the cold sore. Apply as often as needed to help soothe pain and prevent the skin from cracking and bleeding. When your child plays outside, put lip balm on his lips. Because the sun can trigger a cold sore outbreak, use a lip balm that contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and reapply every hour for better protection.
Use an over-the-counter topical ointment that contains an active ingredient such as lidocaine, benzocaine or camphor, recommends MayoClinic.com. Some products also contain zinc, phenol and tannic acid, which may help speed healing. If you apply the medication to the area when your child first begins to feel a tingling sensation in her lip, you may be able to reduce the size of a cold sore or even prevent it from forming altogether. Normally, tingling is an early warning sign that a cold sore will appear within the next several hours. Reapply ointment every hour for best results. Acyclovir is an antiviral prescription medication sometimes used to treat a more serious outbreak of cold sores. Medications are usually more effective, but you can also try the folk remedy of using a wet tea bag as a warm compress on your child’s cold sore. Apply for a few minutes every hour or as often as needed. Green tea and black tea contain plant tannins which have antiviral properties, which may help to temporarily relieve symptoms.
Putting ice on your child’s lip when he first complains of tingling can help slow the growth of the virus. If you place an ice cube wrapped in a cloth on the affected area for about five to 10 minutes, you may be able to reduce the severity of the outbreak. Apply ice to the cold sore once every hour or at least three times a day to help reduce redness. Your child may enjoy eating a popsicle to soothe his sore lips, and give him acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease pain if the cold sore hurts.