How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers


Mouth sores can be upsetting at any age, but even more so when they occur in young kids. Toddlers may get common canker sores or they may have mouth sores due to viral infections, including Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.[1] Fortunately, there are things you can do at home to treat their pain, speed their healing time, and even help prevent sores from forming again. Always seek advice from your child’s doctor whenever you have health concerns.

Part 1
Reducing the Pain

Reducing the Pain on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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Ice wrapped inside of a washcloth or a mild-flavored ice pop can help reduce inflammation and pain. This method is natural, effective, and safe to use at home.[2] Offer flavored ice pops as a treat that can both help with hydration and ease your child’s sore mouth. Avoid acidic juices, like citrus, in your ice pops as these can worsen the pain. Apple, grape, or even coconut flavors are a better option.

Reducing the Pain on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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With a painful mouth, your child may resist eating and drinking as usual. It’s important to keep your child hydrated. By offering cold liquids like ice water or chilled apple juice, you can also help reduce the inflammation and pain caused by mouth sores.[3] If the sore is too painful to come into direct contact with any liquids, try offering a straw. It’s important to keep your child hydrated.

Reducing the Pain on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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For children between the age of 1 to 6 years, you can apply 2-3 drops of an over-the-counter liquid antacid. Place the antacid directly onto the sore with a medicine dropper or cotton swab. If this helps, you can do this up to 4 times per day.[4] If your child is under 1 year of age, talk to your child’s doctor before using this method as it may not be safe. Treating after meals will help soothe sores after eating. Children over the age of 6 years who can reliably rinse and spit, can use 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) as an oral rinse up to 4 times a day.[5]

Reducing the Pain on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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Ask a pharmacist or your child’s doctor for help when determining the appropriate medication and dosage for your child based on their age and weight. For children who are 6 months old or younger, contact your child’s pediatrician before administering ibuprofen.[6] Do not give acetaminophen to your child if they are under 2 years old without consulting your child’s physician.[7] Dosage guidelines for pediatric pain relievers are also printed on the bottles’ labels and online.[8] Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18 as it has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.[9]

Reducing the Pain on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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Oral pain reliever gels that contain benzocaine can help numb the painful area around the sore.[10] For children over 2 years of age, simply apply a small amount of the gel, spray, ointment or solution directly to the sore from the dispenser or with a cotton swab or your finger. Apply as needed up to 4 times a day.[11] Avoid offering food and drink immediately after applying to extend their efficacy period. The FDA has issued guidelines that benzocaine oral gels should not be administered to children under 2 years of age.[12] Do not use for more than 2 days without first checking with your child’s doctor.

Part 2
Aiding the Healing Process

Aiding the Healing Process on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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Have your child rinse their mouth out with salt water. Salt can help reduce the chances of infection and can speed healing times.[13] To make the salt water solution, dissolve 1 tsp of salt in 1 cup (240 mL) of warm water. For best results, use the rinse after mealtimes to cleanse the mouth gently.[14]

Aiding the Healing Process on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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This will help to prevent irritation to your child’s sores and promote healing. Avoid giving your child any foods that are spicy, acidic, salty, or hard while their sores are healing. Instead, offer your child things like:[15] Applesauce Cottage cheese Macaroni and cheese Scrambled eggs Cream-based soups Yogurt Ice cream

Aiding the Healing Process on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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To further reduce irritation, switch to a toothbrush with soft bristles if you do not already use one. Be extra gentle when you brush your child’s teeth and gums and avoid their sores as much as possible.[16] If your toddler brushes their own teeth, teach them to brush gently.

Aiding the Healing Process on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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Some people with mouth sores find relief after rinsing with a solution that contains dexamethasone. This is a steroid that will reduce inflammation and pain. Talk to your child’s doctor to find out if a steroid rinse is a good option.[17] The use of steroids in the mouth can carry a risk of secondary fungal infection, or thrush, which is itself an uncomfortable condition that requires medical treatment.

Part 3
Preventing Mouth Sores

Preventing Mouth Sores on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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[18] Reduce exposure to the infections that cause mouth sores by teaching good hand washing skills. Have your child lather their hands with soap for 20 seconds before rinsing after using the bathroom and before eating.[19] The “Happy Birthday” song lasts for approximately 20 seconds, so you can ask your toddler to sing this quietly when they wash their hands so they know when it’s time to rinse.[20] Encourage your child to wash their hands independently by placing a stool near the sink to help them reach everything on their own.

Preventing Mouth Sores on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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If your toddler is prone to mouth sores, give them foods that are easy for them to chew. Many kids avoid very hot and spicy foods naturally, but you can help by offering choices that are milder to begin with.[21] Acidic foods, like pickles, or very salty foods, like chips, can also contribute to sores, so keep these foods to a minimum.

Preventing Mouth Sores on How to Soothe Mouth Ulcers in Toddlers

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Toddlers can be picky eaters so give them a variety of fresh foods and whole grains every day.[22] Leafy green veggies like spinach, kale and broccoli, orange juice, and many whole grain cereals are good sources of nutrition that can help minimize recurrences of mouth sores.[23] Ask your child’s doctor about supplements for nutrients like folic acid, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 or zinc as deficiencies in these vitamins can contribute to mouth sores.[24]