Caring for a toddler with mouth sores: A list of foods and more

Hand, foot and mouth disease was something I had never even heard of. When my toddler suddenly had small pimple like sores on his butt, I assumed it was just some sort of yeast-based diaper rash, or another bane of his eczema. Later, when he complained his tongue hurt, and I found a sore, I assumed he had a canker sore. On both counts I was wrong. My toddler had hand, foot and mouth disease. Despite being called a "disease," hand, foot and mouth is actually just a common childhood virus.

While symptoms may vary, I learned when my second toddler began showing signs of this highly contagious virus, you'll likely see red spots, or fluid filled blisters on the hands, feet and mouth -- hence the name. Sores in the mouth will became raw and painful much like canker sores. Toddlers and infants also often get sores on their butts in the diaper region. Fever, irritability, loss of appetite, and fatigue are other common symptoms. Hand, foot and mouth is contagious only when sores are present and active, meaning they haven't burst or begun to heal. Much like chicken pox, hand, foot, and mouth is generally a one-time type virus. As there are a few different strains, you can get it more than once, but never from the same strain.

Sadly, because hand, foot and mouth is caused by a virus, it can't be treated with medication directly. All you can do is treat the symptoms. The virus generally resolves itself in seven to ten days. However, even seven to ten days can be a long time with a whiny toddler who is in pain, and may or may not be able to eat or drink comfortably. Fever and discomfort can benefit from a bit of Tylenol or ibuprofen, but the biggest issue I had was trying to find things my toddler could eat. This is what I learned…

Things to avoid if your toddler has mouth sores:

-Bottles: The sucking motion can be quite painful. On the upside, I used this opportunity to wean my toddler's off the bottle at bedtime. Soft nippled sip cups seem to be OK.

-Spicy or acid foods: If you've ever had a canker sore you can relate; acidic food in particular, such as citrus, is not recommended.

-Chewy or crunchy foods: Chewy foods tend to stick to the teeth, mingle with saliva and aggravate every sore in your toddler's mouth. My toddler was particularly annoyed that eating candy hurt. Crunchy foods can scrape against sores, causing bleeding or at the least, more pain.

Foods that are good for toddlers with mouth sores:

You want to aim for soft, easy to swallow foods that are neutral or base in nature. Dairy based foods, for instance, are almost always neutral or base. Cold foods can also be very soothing. Here are some ideas to give you an idea of what works.

-Ice cream or popsicles

-Yogurt or cottage cheese

-Jello or pudding

-Apple sauce

-Mashed potatoes


-Clam chowder

-Chicken or beef vegetable soup (do not use a tomato base)

-Seafood or chicken alfredo, or any white sauced pasta for that matter

-Macaroni and cheese

In the event your child's mouth hurts so badly they simply won't eat, push water. Dehydration is one of the biggest risks of hand, foot and mouth and other conditions that cause mouth sores. I found my toddler handled milk well during the short period he wouldn't eat. You can opt for the Pediasure dietary supplements if your child will drink milk. They have a touch more sugar, so you may have to dilute them with regular milk, but they can help fill dietary holes from not being able to eat. Rest assured that your child won't die or become skin and bones from a dramatically decreased diet a few days. As long as he or she is getting liquids and peeing regularly, everything should be fine.

Feel free to add your suggestions for a toddler with mouth sores in comment.

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