Mouth pain, throat pain, or mouth sores

Some cancer treatments can cause a sore mouth, mouth sores, or a sore throat. If your child has these problems, soft, bland foods and lukewarm or cool foods can be soothing. If he is old enough, help your child rinse his mouth regularly by swishing and spitting a salt solution (1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt mixed in 1 quart water – do not let the child swallow it). Or the doctor may suggest another gentle mouth rinse. This helps prevent infections and improves healing a sore mouth and throat. Also try these tips:

  • Try serving milk, ice cream, homemade shakes or smoothies, or canned liquid food supplements or shakes that are high in calories and protein when your child can’t eat enough regular foods.
  • Have your child try soft, creamy foods such as cream soups, cheeses, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, yogurt, eggs, custards, puddings, cooked cereals, casseroles, or canned liquid food supplements if his doctor recommends them.
  • Blend and moisten foods that are dry or solid. Use in soups or with sauces, gravies, and casseroles.
  • If your child is in a lot of pain, your doctor may have you give him pain medicine about 30 minutes before meals. (For more information on pain control, see Cancer Pain.)
  • Have your child use a straw to bypass mouth sores.
  • Avoid tart or acidic foods, salty foods, and drinks like citrus fruit juices (grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime), pickled and vinegary foods, tomato-based foods, and some canned broths.
  • Avoid rough-textured or hard foods, such as dry toast, chips, crackers, nuts, granola, and raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Puree or liquefy foods in a blender to make them easier to swallow.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: June 30, 2014

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