People who suffer from fever blisters – small sores that are usually found on the outside of the mouth near the lips – usually caught the virus that causes them when they were children under the age of ten.
Like the word says, fever blisters are caused by fever. These are mostly caused by the herpes simplex type 1 virus. Once someone catches this virus, it does not go away.
Children are very susceptible to catching the virus. They have a weaker immune system than adults and contract the virus easily. The first time they are exposed to it, they will develop a fever. This may be combined with headaches, painful swallowing and often will develop sores throughout the mouth. Occasionally, the infection can get so painful that the child can not eat or drink anymore and hence becomes dehydrated. Then a stay at the hospital is required, where the child will be rehydrated by IV. But luckily the infection is often very mild, and is often mistaken for a common cold.
After this first outbreak, the symptoms may go away, but the virus lies dormant and is waiting for a chance to be reactivated. A new outbreak can be triggered by exposure to the sun, by stress, by a trauma to the skin, or by a cold or fever.
The virus is also very contagious. It is easily spread around by kissing or hand to mouth contact. Also when the blisters are touched, which children often do, the infection can be spread to other mucous membranes. A good tip is to always wash your hands before touching someone else.
Unfortunately, there really little to be done to prevent an outbreak. The best thing you can do once it occurs, is to try and prevent spreading it to anyone else. You know already that fever blisters will occur a few days in advance. The skin will itch or burn a few days before the outbreak.
While there still is no cure for the herpes simplex type 1 virus, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the symptoms and help the child feel more comfortable.
You can apply an ointment that contains agents that work specifically on blisters and cold sores. Just ask your pharmacist for this medication. Your child may not enjoy being treated with it, though, as the ointment will sting when it is first applied. In spite of their complaints, the ointment will provide effective pain relief.
When you live in a region where there is a lot of sun, it is also advisable to use a good sunscreen on the child’s lips. There are many lip balms that contain SPF and they are available in just about any drug store.
If your child is in a lot of pain, you may give him or her a pain reliever like Ibuprofen. But be sure to buy a children’s formula and always follow the dosing guidelines for your child’s age and weight.