At some point in their lives, almost every child will experience the pain and embarrassment of cold sores. Also known as fever blisters, these unsightly sores can occur on the lips, nose, or around the mouth. While cold sores are not dangerous, they can be quite painful for children. 

In this article, we will discuss the causes of cold sores in children, treatments for cold sores in children, when to seek medical treatment for cold sores in children, and prevention of cold sores in children.

Causes of Cold Sores in Children

Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). This virus is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or through contact with contaminated objects such as utensils, towels, or lip balm. The virus can also be spread through kissing or sharing cups or eating utensils with someone who has a cold sore. 

Once a child is infected with HSV, the virus remains in the body for life. Although the virus is typically dormant (inactive), there are certain triggers that can cause the virus to become active again. Some of these triggers include fever, stress, sunlight exposure, or hormonal changes. When the virus becomes active again, it travels back down nerve pathways to the surface of the skin, where it causes a cold sore to form. 

Treatments for Cold Sores in Children

There is no cure for HSV infection, and there is no medication that can completely eliminate the virus from the body. However, there are treatments that can help shorten the duration of a cold sore and lessen the severity of symptoms. 

Some over-the-counter treatments for cold sores in children include topical creams or ointments such as docosanol (Abreva) or lip balm with sunscreen. 

If your child has a cold sore, it is important to keep the affected area clean and dry. Also, make sure to discourage your child from picking or scratching the sore, as this can delay healing and may lead to secondary bacterial infection. 

When to Seek Medical Treatment for Cold Sores in Children?

Most children will not require medical treatment for their cold sores as they will usually go away on their own within 1-2 weeks. However, there are certain instances when medical treatment may be necessary.

If your infant has a cold sore and is younger than six months old, you should take them to see a doctor. There is a chance they could get a more serious infection.

Sores near a child’s eye could be indicative of a developing infection, so it is imperative to take them to see a doctor.

If this is their first cold sore, you should take them to see a doctor so that they can confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other possible conditions. 

Your child should see a doctor if the sores have not healed after two weeks.

You should take your child to the doctor if they have cold sores frequently. They might require antiviral medicine on prescription.

Take your child to the doctor if they have a cold sore and also have a headache, temperature, drowsiness, or confusion. They may have meningitis which is a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord.

Prevention of Cold Sores in Children

There is no way to prevent cold sores from occurring. However, there are some things you can do to help prevent your child from getting cold sores and to help them heal quickly if they do get one. 

1. Keep Your Child’s Immune System Strong

One of the best ways to prevent cold sores is to help your child keep their immune system strong. You can do this by making sure they eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and stay hydrated. You should also limit their exposure to sick people as much as possible. If your child does get sick, make sure they take their medication as prescribed by their doctor. 

2. Teach Your Child Good Hygiene Practices 

Good hygiene is important for preventing all kinds of illnesses, including cold sores. Teach your child to wash their hands regularly with soap and water and to avoid touching their face unless they have just washed their hands. It’s also important that they avoid sharing utensils, towels, or other items with people who have cold sores. 

3. Apply Sunscreen 

Applying sunscreen to your child’s face can help prevent cold sores because sunlight can trigger an outbreak. Make sure you use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and apply it every two hours when your child is outside, even on cloudy days. Be sure to reapply after swimming or sweating. 

4. Use Lip Balm 

Dry lips are more likely to get cold sores, so using lip balm can help prevent them. Apply lip balm often, especially when your child is going outside or taking part in activities that might dry out their lips, such as swimming or skiing. ChapStick makes several types of lip balm that are specifically designed to help prevent cold sores. 

What are Some Home Remedies for Cold Sores in Children?

If your child does get a cold sore, there are some home remedies you can try to help them feel better.

1. Put a Cold, Damp Cloth on the Sore

If your child is experiencing pain from their cold sore, one of the quickest ways to relieve it is by using a cold compress. Soak a clean washcloth in water, then put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Once it’s cool, apply it to the sore for about 10 minutes at a time. Do this several times throughout the day as needed.  

2. Keep them Hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids is important when your child is sick, but it’s especially important when they have a cold sore because dehydration can make symptoms worse. Offer your child water, juice, or other sugar-free beverages frequently throughout the day, and make sure they’re getting enough fluid even if they don’t feel thirsty. Avoid giving them caffeinated drinks like soda, as this can actually make dehydration worse. 

3. Apply Peppermint Oil 

Peppermint oil has antiviral and pain-relieving properties that can help soothe a cold sore. Put a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton swab and apply it to the sore. You can do this several times a day as needed. 

4. Apply Milk to the Sore 

Milk also has antiviral properties and can help speed up the healing process. Apply a small amount of milk to the sore with a cotton swab and let it dry. You can do this several times a day. 

What are Some Tips for Dealing with Cold Sores in Children?

1. Don’t Try to Pop the Blister

It can be tempting to try to pop the blister but resist the urge, as this can actually make the sore worse and prolong the healing process.

2. Keep the Sore Clean

Wash the area around the sore with soap and water regularly to prevent the spread of infection.

3. Give Your Child Pain Relief Medication

If your child is in pain, you can give them over-the-counter pain relief medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

4. Keep Your Child Home from School or Daycare

If your child has a cold sore, it’s best to keep them home from school or daycare until it has healed to prevent the spread of the virus. 

5. Be Patient

Cold sores can be painful and annoying, but they will eventually go away on their own. In the meantime, just do your best to make your child comfortable and care for the sore as best as you can.


What are the most effective methods for treating cold sores in children? The solution might surprise you. Most of the time, it’s best to let a cold sore run its course and heal naturally. You can also check our article on Desert Essence Lip Rescue Review and When are Cold Sores the Most Contagious.

However, there are certain things you may do to ease their discomfort and accelerate their recovery. Remember to keep the sore clean, give your child pain relief medication, and keep them home from school or daycare if they have a cold sore. 

With a little patience, your child will be feeling better in no time!