Ask the Doctor

Question #13:

My child complains about sores in her mouth and our doctor says she has canker sores. What causes them?

Answer:

Douglas Mitchell, MD, of CHKD Health System’s General Booth Pediatrics, says “Canker sores usually appear as small but painful red spots inside the mouth. They may tingle at first and then swell and burst in about a day. The open sore may have a red ridge around it. Most often these sores pop up alone but they can also appear in clusters. When they do, they can be very uncomfortable. The sores are not contagious. The tendency to get canker sores frequently runs in the family, though allergies or nutritional deficiencies of folic acid, B12 and iron can be factors. They can also indicate an immune system problem, but this is rare. No one really knows what causes canker sores, but they are easily treated and will disappear in a couple of weeks unless an infection occurs. Your doctor can advise about over-the-counter medications or may suggest homemade mouthwash of water and baking powder or water and hydrogen peroxide. Your doctor will help you decide if your child is old enough to gargle without swallowing ingredients in these remedies.


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