Cold Sore Prevention and Treatment for Kids

By Carrie Shannon © 2012

It can be frustrating living with cold sores and it can be even worse when you're a kid. Children often get upset when a cold sore starts developing on their lip, as the experience can be very unpleasant and embarrassing. That's your cue to change a few things concerning your child's health.

Read Up On Cold Sores
The first thing you need to be aware of, if you're not already, is that there is no currently known cure for the herpes virus which is the culprit behind cold sores. The more reliable sources will not promise you one, nor will they suggest anything out of the norm. The best resources on the herpes virus include the Mayo Clinic and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). WebMD (website) is also filled with useful articles and information that can be linked to peer reviewed journal articles. Your physician may have brochures on cold sores available as well. Much of the reliable information you will be able to find can help you toward an easy strategy for home treatments.

What to Think About
Before you panic and think that nothing can be done for your child's cold sores, consider for a moment what the constant appearance of cold sores actually means. Yes, it's an obvious sign that they have the herpes virus, but it also means that there's a lifestyle change in order. When the diet isn't right and their immune system isn't working efficiently, the herpes virus has more room to wreak havoc.

Here are a few things that you can do to help prevent that:

1. Tips and Advice for Cold Sore Prevention: No Contact
What this means is that when a cold sore starts showing, the only thing that should touch that area is a topical treatment. Your child might be compelled to touch the area with their hands due to the discomfort of a cold sore, so it's good to continuously remind them of this hazard. Hands have bacteria, which can make the cold sore worse and touching the area puts others at risk of accidently catching the virus (mouth-hand-friend contact). The herpes virus can also get into the eyes, which makes touching a cold sore (and then touching the eyes) a bad idea.

2. Kisses Are Best Saved For Later
The same issues with touching the area apply to kissing the affected area. You can both worsen the cold sore and transfer the herpes virus more easily because people tend to have unknown cuts or tears in the mouth area.

3. Change Out Their Toothbrush
This might seem like an unusual and expensive tip, but you'll be glad that you did it in the end. Toothbrushes can harbor bacteria for a long time, which can be bad for a cold sore. As soon as a cold sore shows up, throw out your child's toothbrush and use a new one until the sore is healed up. You should not use that toothbrush passed the cold sore episode.

4. Let Them Be a Little Carnivorous
If your family includes meat in your meals, it's a good idea to give your child a good helping of it along with their greens. Many proteins such as chicken, fish, beef and other meats contain what scientists have called lysine. Including this in the diet can help slow the herpes virus.

5. Nuts Are Bad News
While you're upping your child's meat intake, also lower the amount of nuts they eat or cut it out of the diet entirely. Studies suggest that the amino acid in nuts known as arginine can activate the herpes virus. But, when the amounts are low and lysine is higher, this can actually be beneficial.

6. Eliminate Sugar
Sugar is, in general, unhealthy for anyone who consumes large amounts. Many of us have more sugar in our diets than we realize, especially kids. Their favorite juices and snacks are packed full with it, so take some precautions. Children with the herpes virus can be at risk of reactivating it when they eat too much sugar. Keep the sugary snacks out of your home and teach your kid to make healthy choices when they are at school or with friends.

7. Fill In the Gaps with Supplements
It's a simple fact that we don't get enough vitamins and minerals in today's diet. People can struggle for years trying to get the right balance of all the necessary nutrients, so we suggest supplements. They can make up for whatever you're child may be missing in their daily meals. Choose quality multivitamins and minerals for them to take every morning or evening.

Teaching Your Kid about Treating a Cold Sore
Even having a healthy lifestyle and diet can't keep the cold sores away forever. Things happen, so make sure you're prepared. Better yet, make sure your child learns to be prepared and what to do. Any easy step towards this is to make up a cold sore kit. It can be relatively simple as all you need is some rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and something sterile, like cotton balls or q-tips, for application. Put them in an easy to find spot in the bathroom, label it and make sure your child knows their purpose. Show him or her how to use them and by the time they are old enough, around eight, they will be able to do it on their own.

Follow this tip and the others above, and your child can achieve a better life with less bothersome cold sores.

Carrie Shannon is the publisher of, a website devoted to providing information on effective and safe cold sore remedies. She currently lives with her very supportive and loving husband, Dave, and their two adorable Yorkies, Oscar and Maggie, in Hermosa Beach, California. In her leisure time you can find Carrie walking her dogs on the beach, doing Bikram Yoga, as well as developing her cold sore home remedies website.


DrMomma Note: As unpopular as a few find this suggestion to be, we urge parents to NOT let others kiss their babies or young children on the lips. One of the primary ways young people end up with herpes (causing 'cold sores') is being kissed as an infant by a well-meaning relative who gave them the virus. In fact, the CDC reports that 60% of those who get the herpes virus, contracted it before the age of 10 - and this is almost exclusively from being kissed by a loving relative. This is not fair to the child, who never 'asked' to be kissed and infected, and because we advocate for the conscious protection of our children and their bodily autonomy, we encourage you to implement a "no kissing on the lips" policy for your friends and relatives. It is not enough to merely state that others cannot kiss on the lips when sores are present, because herpes can and is transmitted from infected person to herpes-free person (via the mouth/lips/eyes/skin/genitals) even when sores are not present. When your child is old enough to make the decision for him/herself (who they allow to kiss on the lips, and the potential consequences of doing so), then it may be the right time to drop the policy and discuss the subject further. But in infancy, protect your babies. They only have this one shot at babyhood/early childhood and do not need to be encumbered by the sore and embarrassing herpes virus. There are many soft and cuddly places to kiss babies -- it does not need to be on the lips! 

"Genital herpes" (HSV-2) can and does impact both the mouth and genitals. It can also infect the eyes, tongue, fingers, feet, anus, forehead, cheeks and other parts of the body. Some cases of herpes found on the mouth (and transmitted to babies via kissing) are HSV-2. If an adult has a visible sore, it is best that they not kiss your baby anywhere as the 'genital herpes' virus will pop up anyplace on the body that is kissed if the conditions are right. 

"Oral herpes" (HSV-1) most often impacts the mouth, lips, gums and throat only, although it can be transferred to the genitals as well. HSV-1 is responsible for the majority of "cold sores" but also causes sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and painful swallowing -- all side effects of the herpes virus that babies are better off without. HSV-1 can be transferred via shared items like straws, utensils, sippy cups, teething toys, glasses and even washcloths used on the lips/face. It is a good idea not to share mouthed items between babies and others, and to teach your children not to swap things that touch their mouth. If you (as a parent) know you have herpes, make efforts not to share items from your mouth with your baby/young child, especially when you have a sore present. Although it is rare, there are life-threatening cases of HSV-1 among newborns and babies already suffering from eczema (which increases exposure and contraction of the virus).


  1. Is it true that some people are immune? Both me and my brothers and sisters have had partners with cold sores and never gotten them ourselves.

  2. i have struggled with cold sores and have found that vit. c, zinc and lysine supplements are really helpful at keeping them at bay. The ointment, Lysine + is a product that I like and is available at many national-chain drugstores. It has natural ingredients and works great.

  3. I go one step farther and NEVER kiss my kids on the lips. I got the herpies virus from my mother when she forced me to kiss her while she had an outbreak. But you don't need to have a current sore to transfer it. So even if I don't have a sore I do not allow any of my children to kiss me on the lips. No exceptions EVER.

    1. Excellent job in protecting your kids from abuse forced upon you. Big (virtual) hugs to you and thank you for breaking the cycle.

  4. Nobody was ever allowed to kiss my lips when I was young, I'm now 17 and have never had a cold sore. It does however make me a little nuts about ever getting one, though. My parents taught me how to avoid them while young, and now it's up to me to avoid them myself and one day do the same for my own child!

    It truly is beneficial to protect your child from this virus!

  5. As a tip, yogurt is high in lysine and low in arginine, so imo, it'd be a good thing to have around. Chicken is higher in lysine than other meats, last I checked.
    Extra stress also seems to trigger cold sores. I've found that if I get overly stressed out, about a week later that familiar tingle starts in.

  6. SO many people I know get cold sores, and my siblings and I never do - and it is just because of what the previous Anon mentioned - no one was allowed to kiss our lips when we were babies or kids (my parents are both pediatricians which likely played into things). I am thankful to them for this because it allowed us to avoid contracting herpes when everyone else seems to have gotten it. Parents are never given this information. They are only told ways to treat cold sores in their kids, but not ways to PREVENT them! So thank you for including this bit on no kissing lips.

  7. SWC - we do the same. We NEVER kiss our own babies on the lips. Babies frequently contract the herpes virus from their own parents. It is not fair to them. If you know you have it (my spouse does - likely from his parents) do not kiss your babies on the lips. There are so many other places to love on that little one, it does not have to be lip to lip contact. Respect them enough to do this. People think I am crazy when I suggest they not kiss their babies if they get cold sores themselves, but it is fact, and should be said. You can pass the virus on even without a sore - so just don't kiss the lips!

  8. A great treatment when you start getting that cold sore feeling is rubbing some lemon balm tincture on it. It works eery time for me.

  9. My son has HSV-1 that runs a nerve line in his left cheek. He is 4 and has had it for a year. He has a tiny cut on his cheek from a bonk on a cabinet door (and I mean miniscule) and thr assumption is that someone kissed him near it.
    What makes it scary is that he is a child, so if he has an outbreak he is more likely to transfer it to his eyes, nose or genitals, all of which have severe repercussions.
    The Lysine+ ointment has been a godsend, it works so well, and I can't say enough good about it. As soon as he can swallow pills we will be adding lysine supplements.

  10. I get cold sores and have recently found out a lot of useful information about the virus when researching for an assignment on genital herpes. One good thing to know is that the virus only survives for about 10 seconds outside the body (slightly more in warm moist conditions), so is very unlikely to be transmitted by anything other than direct contact. Another is that the vast majority of the world's population carries the virus (in one of its two forms), although most people never show symptoms - so although it can be distressing and embarrassing to have a cold sore, we are certainly not alone. And lastly, having cold sores seems to lower the likelihood of acquiring genital herpes, as the body makes antibodies which give some protection. I found the UK support group website very useful and informative. It doesn't say anything about the idea that some people are genetically immune though - does anyone know anything more about that?

  11. my son babysitter of 3 years gave it to him, it saddens me that i didnt know ho to protect him then.

  12. Re: Immunity

    My doctor told me that family members are often immune and I do recall reading that about 80% of the (NZ) population are immune.
    However, I am sceptical. In reading more on Wikipedia, it states that around 90% of the world's population carries the HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 virus but that most are asymptomatic i.e. they never experience any symptoms despite having the virus. This would lead me to believe that perhaps it's not that people are immune per se but rather that they just never show any outward signs of having the virus.
    However, as Ruth said, if you have HSV-1 (oral herpes) it does reduce the likelihood of contracting HSV-2 (genital herpes).

    As an aside, I really resent the use of "embarrassing". I contracted HSV-1 as a small child and have suffered by it horribly since (I'm immunocompromised so outbreaks can be horrible). I'm bombarded with the message that having a cold sore is embarrassing and I should try to hide it away lest I be treated like some sort of leper. I contracted this virus because of a family member's lack of thought and care - I don't see why I should be made to feel terrible about something that I have had no choice in and got because of someone else's poor judgement and care.
    Please stop proliferating the stupid idea that cold sores are embarrassing. No one deserves to feel ashamed for being infected with a virus through no fault of their own, least of all a child.

  13. My mom avoided "kissing" on the lips because she thought she might have a cold sore comming on. Unfortunately, she kissed me on the nose instead. All I can say is, I would rather have HSV-1 on the lips than my nose. Hepes simplex 1 can be spread to any area of contact. So, if granny gives her grandchild a kiss on the cheek, the child is at risk for an outbreak there. Not kissing on the lips does not eliminate the risk of transmission!!!

  14. Started feeling like I was getting a cold sore while on vacation and didn't have my usual medication. My husband had his lavender beard conditioner (from with him and he suggested I put some on my lips. This stuff has beeswax and coconut oil in it which I read are good for cold sores. Ok this may sound weird but this stuff really works in preventing cold sores. Not only did my cold sore go away after using it but I have not gotten another one for over a year now. I apply this stuff like lip balm a few times a day and no more awful cold sores

  15. I'm worried about my 4 year old! I was picking up our foster children from an appointment & their sibling was there. She ran up & grabbed my daughter d started kissing her all over her face including the lips. 4 days later the child has a cold sore in her mouth & my daughter is complaining of a sore throat. I read that children may have swollen lymph nodes as a first symptom. I feel like a bad mom now :(!

  16. My son who is eight has cold sores that are really painful..he had a babysitter that use to get them and he got them from her...lately he has not had any but today he has one on his lip...and he was in pain and told me that he wanted to stay home from school...i told him that alot of people get cold sores and he can't be embarassed about it..i have been searching for ways in which he can avoid having them, and the suggestions especially with the lysine supplements i will try getting for him...i try to think about what he eats and everything that i have read has been really helpful..

  17. Thanks for sharing me about cold Sore prevention and treatment for kids. I love it and i really happy to follow these ideas for my kids.

  18. My daughter gets cold sores around and on her eye, it breaks my heart every time she has an outbreak. My husband and I have never had active sores, the first time I noticed she had one was one she was 18 months. It can happen to anyone.

  19. Thank you, very informative, I have a question – has anyone tried shungite water? One of my friends advised me to try it, in his case it helped. If anybody faced this situation and tried it please advise.

  20. I have tried shungite water, I noticed the effect. However I suppose that it is still an additional remedy which need to be combined with common treatment of a disease. There is some information about it here:

  21. I have had bad often breakouts since at least 3, I have seen pictures. None of my immediate family has it. If they do I have never seen it. My mom and grandma all ways kissed me on the lips. I have 6 sisters no herpes. Yet, I didn't kiss my son on the lips or any place known to easily contract the virus (mucus membranes). However he got it. Now my husband got it and I don't kiss him anywhere near an outbreak or/and until its completely healed up. I am very educated on this virus as I have been studying it for 30 yrs. I know its a mutation of the Varicella virus which we get vaccinated for. I do believe an infection of a active herpes virus can be caused by this vaccine and the recent outbreaks of shingles proves it. Scientists still are not so sure on how this and other viruses spread, they tell you they do but if thats the case, why are there on going studies, which makes me think needle! Take the flu virus for instance, many scientists think you get it through the ear not through touching. We are full of viruses just as we are full of bacteria in a mutually beneficial way. Once we start messing too much with nature it will fight back. My son didn't have an outbreak until he went to school there were kids there with an outbreak. I can't imagine that he got it from me and I have spoken to pediatric doctors who say they are seeing it at an alarming rate as,"Primary herpetic gingivostomatitis" they even have expected age of 5, think about when you try to kill bacteria it mutates and becomes stronger. As far as treatment I never really tried anything long enough to know if it works I would get a breakout during treatment and lose motivation . As far as Vit C or oxygen therapy you will be lucky to find a Dr. to help you get the right treatment dosage, and its expensive. I did buy this salve from Australia I use and that seems to work as long as you put it on at first tingle. Otherwise, I use ice and Tea tree oil any essential oil, you can even use Vicks, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol as needed.

    1. You may not visibly see the oral herpes outbreak - it can occur on the inside of the lips, or it may have happened just once when you were to young to remember it. Kissing on the lips is universally the most powerful transmission for the herpes virus (whether a baby/child remembers this or not).

  22. Avoid eating sugary and processed foods with high arginine content that causes irritation and slows down the healing process.



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