What is herpetic gingivostomatitis?

Herpetic gingivostomatitis is a series of lesions in the soft tissues of the mouth and around the lips caused by the herpes simplex virus type one, also known as HSV-I. This virus is related to the sexually transmitted version of the herpes virus, except that it is usually transmitted through contact with the saliva of infected individuals. HSV-I cannot be cured, but usually after the first episode of herpetic gingivostomatitis, patients experience much milder symptoms in the future.

This virus causes blisters to form in the mouth. They can rupture and cause ulcerations. The patient usually has a fever and the gums may become red and swollen, sometimes bleeding as a result of the inflammation. Herpetic gingivostomatitis is painful, and early signs of the infection in children may include restlessness, difficulty feeding, and crying. Once the lesions are present, the patient may drool, be irritable, and have swollen lymph nodes.

Antiviral medications may be prescribed during the first outbreak, but usually the recommended treatment is to focus on supportive care. This includes providing fluids to keep the patient hydrated and offering age-appropriate anti-inflammatory medications to control inflammation. Children with active herpetic gingivostomatitis should also be reminded to wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their eyes after touching their mouth, as this can spread the infection. Future outbreaks will usually be limited to one or two lesions that appear occasionally when the immune system is stressed, because the virus lurks inside the body.

Herpetic gingivostomatitis flare-ups are usually seen in infants and young children. Children commonly become infected by sharing toys and space with children who have the virus, and it is a very common pediatric infection. A pediatrician can usually identify it with a quick visual exam. The infection spreads from person to person very easily, although encouraging children to practice proper hygiene can reduce the spread of the virus.

The administration of medications to numb the mouth is generally not recommended, as it can interfere with speech and swallowing. If a child has extremely painful sores, a pediatrician can provide some prescription medications to control the pain. It is important to ensure that oral hygiene is observed, even if it is painful. Soothing mouthwashes can sometimes help treat pain, itching, and irritation. In general, herpetic gingivostomatitis lasts about two weeks and giving the patient as much supportive treatment as possible will help them heal quickly.

Go up