Your son, 4 years old, plays at the park. He climbs a ladder, misses a step and falls. As you get closer, you notice that his lip is bleeding. What should you do?
Your daughter, 7 years old, comes back from school with a small wound on her upper lip. It oozes a little. What could it be? A cold sore? Impetigo? Should you panic or not?
Here are answers to your questions and instructions on how to react in any event.
Falling in the park
When a child falls (at the park, on his bike, etc.) he can hit his mouth. Murphy's Law makes sure that he falls on asphalt or on a surface that is just as hard… When it happens, you need to check if the inside of his mouth was injured. If his lip is bleeding and nothing else, applying a cold compress will do. The bleeding will stop quickly. It might also swell a little, but it will only last a few days. This is quite normal.
Your child may also have knocked his teeth during the fall. It might not affect them at all but you must remain vigilant and make sure that they are not shaking or darkening. If one does, you should consult a dentist who will examine it and tell you where you stand. The same applies if a tooth is broken: it has to be repaired quickly to prevent the spread of bacteria, which could cause a cavity.
Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection caused by a streptococcus. It does not appear because of a lack of hygiene. Highly contagious, it can justify the absence from school in order to avoid the spread as much as possible. It can appear on various parts of the body, but in children it usually appears around the mouth or nose. The lesions appear as small vesicles that, after a while, become pustules and eventually burst. The content of the wound is contagious: if you clean your child’s wound, be vigilant and make sure to wash your hands immediately. Lesions do not leave scars, but it is important to consult a doctor (not a dentist) if you think your child has impetigo.
Cold sores or herpes labialis
Herpes labialis, better known as "cold sores", is a contagious disease. It is transmitted through sharing utensils, glasses, and everything that can be brought to the mouth, as well as kisses. It is also recurrent: it enters an active phase and then subsides, but it can reappear at any other time. In other words, once someone is infected with herpes labialis, that person will carry it her whole life. However, having buccal herpes, will not automatically give you genital herpes. The use of vitamin E capsules that can be pierce and applied on the wound will help healing.
Herpes simplex type 1 is the same for oral and genital herpes. It is therefore important, for infected and sexually active people, to refrain from oral sex until complete healing of the cold sore.
Aphthous ulcers can appear inside our mouths and are not contagious. Aphthous ulcer may look like the result of a bite, but the pain will not be the same and the ulcer has a round shape. The pain felt after you bite your cheek is hard to miss! Ulcers give more of a burning feeling.
If your family tends to have aphthous ulcers, you could have them too. Ill-fitting dentures and vigorous brushing with a stiff toothbrush can also lead to aphthous ulcer. Hormonal changes and fatigue can also increase the chance of developing this type of ulcer. There is no specific treatment to treat ulcers, but to ease the pain, rinse your mouth with warm salt water as often as possible. A desensitizing gel like Canker-X (Butler brand) can also be applied with a cotton swab.
It is always reassuring to know what to expect when our children fall or come home from school with sores in or near the mouth. Dentists, doctors and pharmacists can answer your questions if you want to be certain of what's happening in and around the mouth of your child.
Do not hesitate to ask them. Until then, have a great summer ... and have fun in the park!