Mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers

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About mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers are little sores that come up inside the mouth, on the tongue or on the gums.

Several things can cause mouth ulcers:

  • viral infections like cold sores or hand, foot and mouth disease
  • oral thrush
  • injuries like biting, burns or rubbing from braces
  • low vitamin levels
  • diseases like coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Sometimes ulcers keep coming back without any obvious cause.

Symptoms of mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers usually look like round, white sores on the inner lining of your child's mouth, or on the surface of her gums or tongue.

These sores can be painful, especially when your child eats salty or spicy foods. Sometimes your child might even refuse food until the ulcers start to heal.

If an infection is causing the ulcers, your child might also have a fever.

Does your child need to see a doctor about mouth ulcers?

If you think your child might have ulcers related to a mouth infection, it's a good idea to see your GP.

You should see your GP urgently if your child develops severe mouth ulcers with symptoms of general illness like:

  • weight loss
  • stomach pain
  • unexplained fevers
  • blood or mucus in his poo
  • neck stiffness and tiredness
  • ulcers around his anus.

This is because mouth ulcers can sometimes be caused by coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Treatment for mouth ulcers

Simple mouth ulcers usually don't need treatment and will clear up within a week.

If your child is in pain, you can try applying an anaesthetic mouth gel to the area. You can buy these mouth gels over the counter from pharmacies. You can also try warm salt water rinses if your child is old enough to rinse or gargle with liquids.

Encourage your child to keep up her fluids by giving her small, frequent sips of water. This will help to prevent dehydration.

There are specific treatments for mouth infections caused by thrush and the cold sore virus. Your GP will let you know about these if your child needs them.