Kids Health Info

Herpes Simplex Gingivostomatitis

  • Herpes simplex gingivostomatitis is inflammation of the gums and lips caused by the herpes virus; the virus that causes cold sores.

    Infections in children often go unnoticed but approximately one child in four will develop mouth blisters after their first infection. Your child may have a fever and become irritable, then a day or two later develop ulcers on the lips and gums. These are painful and often lead to drooling and a refusal to eat or drink. Your child may then become dehydrated. The blisters usually take from 10 -14 days to go away. The blisters never leave scars.

    The infection can be passed on to other children if they come into contact with fluid from the blisters.

    Signs and symptoms

    • fever
    • irritability
    • mouth ulcers/blisters
    • pain
    • poor appetite
    • dehydration.


    The blisters caused by herpes simplex gingivostomatitis are painful. Pain relievers are very important. Paracetamol can be used but stronger medication such as codeine may be needed. The pain usually goes away after three to four days.

    Antibiotics and antiviral medications do not work and are of no use in controlling this condition.

    Care at home

    Do all you can to encourage your child to drink.

    If you think your child is dehydrated and is refusing to drink, please see a doctor or take your child to your nearest hospital emergency department.

    Key points to remember

    • This is a very common condition.
    • Infection can often go unnoticed.
    • It lasts 10-14 days.
    • The only medications that should be used are pain relievers.
    • Acyclovir (anti viral medicine) and antibiotics don't help.


    Developed by the General Medicine, Infectious Diseases Departments. First published 13 May 2005. Updated November 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.