Childhood Skin Problems – Cold Sores, Canker Sores and Heat Rash


According to statistics only about 10% of the adult population of the United States have never had a cold sore or fever blister. The rest of us have suffered at some time or perhaps many times in our life.

Cold sores are caused by a virus known as the herpes simplex type 1. This virus is closely related to the virus that causes chicken pox. The virus is characterized by fluid-filled blisters that appear on or around the lips and sometimes inside the mouth. After a few days they dry and form yellowish crusts. Although the sore heals in six to ten days, the virus remains in the body in a latent form in the nerve trunks. A recurrence can be triggered by excess exposure to the sun, a fever or other bodily stresses. The incubation period is two to twelve days after exposure. And the child usually feels a burning, tingling or itching sensation at the spot where the sore will appear. Although highly contagious, the virus is only contagious when the sores are visible. It is not contagious during the latent period while the virus hides within the nerve trunks. There is no cure for the virus and treatment centers around relieving discomfort and preventing secondary infections. However, there are many home and over the counter remedies such as aloe vera and Campho-Phenique. Applying cold compresses to the affected area will also help loosen the crusts and relieve discomfort.

It is important, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, that children do not rub the eyes or put fingers on a cut after touching the mouth. And when they do touch their sores, they should be careful to wash their hands immediately thereafter.

Another sore occurring in the mouth is a canker sore. A canker sore is totally different from a cold sore or fever blister. The latter is caused by a virus. A canker sore is not caused by a virus. And canker sores are not contagious. A canker sore is a small, very painful, ulcer in the mouth. It is covered with a gray membrane and is surrounded by a red halo.

There is no effective treatment but they usually disappear in a week or two. To avoid discomfort, children that are affected should avoid the foods that aggravate the pain and rinse their mouths with salt water after each meal. They should also drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.

Heat rash is also a common childhood skin condition. Heat rash is often referred to as prickly heat. It is characterized by small, red pimples which break out on the neck, chest and in skin folds. It is often itchy or has a burning feeling. A heat rash is caused by the obstruction of the pores that transport sweat from the body. It occurs in hot, humid weather, when the child has a fever or if the child is too warmly dressed or wearing tight fitting clothing. It can be prevented by keeping the child cool and dry. Treatment involves cooling the child’s skin which will encouraged the obstructed pores to open. This can be done by giving a cool bath, sponging the child with cool water or placing the child in an air-conditioned room. Heat rash is not serious and rarely is a doctor needed.