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Learn More About The 7 Most Common Sore Throat Ailments

Canker Sores

Canker Sores (Aphthous Stomatitis)

Canker Sores present as painful single or multiple shallow, round or oval ulcers with a grayish base. They are usually located on the buccal mucosa (the soft tissue on the inside of the cheeks) and in the crease between the lips and gums. They heal spontaneously in 10-14 days.


Figure 1-4. Canker sores appear as shallow ulcers on a reddened base, always inside the mouth - inside the lips and cheeks, on the gums, tongue, and soft palate.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

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Find links to the other common sore throat ailments in our Sore Throat Guide at the bottom of the page.

Normal Throat 

Canker Sores

A Normal Throat is pink rather than fire-engine red, and has no sores or ulcers. Size of tonsils will vary, but the tonsils will not be a very different color from the surrounding throat tissue.

Canker Sores (Viral Sore Throat) may include some or all of the following: redness of the soft palate, uvula, pharynx, or tonsils (a.), multiple tiny hemorrhages (hemorrhagic petechiae) on the soft palate, uvula, pharynx, or tonsils (b.), and/or enlarged tonsils (c.). Keep in mind that any of the symptoms above might appear individually or in any combination.

Canker Sores are recurrent painful shallow intra-oral ulcers most commonly seen in children and adolescents, becoming less frequent in adults. The cause of canker sores is not understood. Some children only have rare episodes, while others may have very frequent episodes. Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis (RAS) is the most common cause of mouth ulcers.

Factors that may predispose to recurrent canker sores include food or drug sensitivity, trauma, emotional stress and family history of RAS. Still, the exact cause remains unknown. Patients with children with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease may be at higher risk for RAS.


Once the throat is viewed and symptoms are recognized, similarities of signs and symptoms of viral pharyngitis makes it almost impossible to specify the cause. It is also worth noting that viral sore throats may appear very different in many individuals. In most cases, the diagnosis of viral pharyngitis may not alter treatment. Typically, throat cultures are not needed to make a diagnosis.


Pain and dehydration may lead to the need for IV fluids in young children and infants.


The most common treatment for canker sores includes relief with Orabase with Triamcinolone, fluocinonide gel covered by Orabase, and topical analgesics. Application early in the course may lead to faster healing. Chemical cautery with Silver Nitrate, steroid injections into the lesions or oral steroids may be used for more severe outbreaks.