Children are known to have sweet breath, so bad breath in a toddler might indicate a medical condition. When the bad breath is accompanied by red spots on or in the mouth, there's a good chance that an infection is present. Always consult your pediatrician before using medications, if symptoms get worse or last more than a few days, or if your toddler's breath has an usual odor.
Thrush is a fungal infection that occurs in infants and toddlers. It's often associated with white patches in the mouth, but it also appears as red spots on the tongue, gums, roof of the mouth and inside of the cheeks. It can cause bad breath, a curd-like discharge, dry mouth, soreness and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Thrush is treated with antifungal medications.
In addition to the telltale sore throat and often severe pain when swallowing, the symptoms of strep throat include red spots on the roof of the mouth and bad breath. Caused by the streptococcus bacteria, this infection is contagious and therefore common for children in day care. Your toddler might also have a fever, headache, stomachache or swollen neck glands. Rather than red spots, the roof of the mouth may appear red overall. Strep throat is treated with antibiotics and nonaspirin pain relievers. If your toddler would tolerate it, warm tea with honey and gargling with warm saltwater help soothe the throat.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, also called Coxsackie virus infection, is an illness that typically affects children under the age of five. The infection is contagious and is spread by contact with nose and throat secretions, or by coming in contact with feces. At first your toddler may simply be fatigued, lose his appetite and simply not feel well. Bad breath is not a common symptom, but you can expect to see red spots on the tongue, gums or inside of the cheeks. The red spots may blister or form ulcers than can be very painful. Other primary symptoms include a fever and sore throat. Some children get a red rash on their palms, soles or buttocks. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually only lasts a few days, but see your pediatrician if the symptoms get worse or a sore mouth stops your toddler from drinking fluids.
Sinusitis does not produce red spots, but it is a cause of bad breath. Under normal conditions, the sinuses do not contain bacteria, but when a cold or allergies cause too much mucus to be created, the passages become blocked, bacteria grows and an infection can develop. The classic symptoms of sinusitis are bad breath, a cough, fatigue, fever, sinus headaches, congestion and a sore throat. Relieve sinusitis by using a humidifier and encouraging your toddler to drink fluids. A saline nasal spray helps clear the sinus airway, but consult your pediatrician before using nasal decongestants. Call the doctor if your toddler has a fever or if symptoms don't improve within two to three weeks.
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Thrush
- Consumer Guide to Dentistry: Oral Thrush Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
- Virtual Pediatric Hospital: Strep Throat/Strep Tonsillitis
- MayoClinic.com: Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Sinusitis
- Pediatric Dental Health: Halitosis and Bad Breath in Children