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A to Z: Gingivostomatitis, Herpetic

May also be called: Herpes Gingivostomatitis or Herpetic Stomatitis

Herpetic gingivostomatitis (her-PEH-tik jin-jih-vo-sto-muh-TY-tiss) is a contagious mouth infection caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). It most often occurs in young children and is usually the first exposure a child has to the herpes virus (which is also responsible for cold sores and fever blisters).

More to Know

Someone with herpetic gingivostomatitis may have blisters on the tongue, cheeks, gums, lips, and roof of the mouth. After the blisters pop, ulcers will form. Other symptoms include high fever (before blisters appear), difficulty swallowing, drooling, pain, and swelling. Also, because the sores make it difficult to eat and drink, dehydration can occur.

Herpetic gingivostomatitis usually clears up on its own within 2 weeks. Medicines may be prescribed to speed up the recovery and fight the herpes virus or to numb the mouth. Pain relievers and a diet of mostly cold nonacidic drinks also might be recommended. Once a person is carrying the herpes simplex virus, repeated cold sore outbreaks may occur when the immune system is weakened.

Keep in Mind

Because herpetic gingivostomatitis can spread easily, the best prevention is avoiding close contact with infected people. Children shouldn’t kiss or share food, drinks, or utensils with an infected person. Because babies and toddlers like to put everything in their mouth, sharing toys with infected kids should be avoided, too.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.