Everything You Should Know About Cold Sores

Posted December 14, 2021 by in Health + Fitness

If you’ve ever noticed a nasty blister on or near your lips, you’ve probably had a few concerns. You may be wondering, ‘what is this?’ and more importantly, ‘how can I cure it?’ 

There is a good chance that these blisters are cold sores and they’re caused by a viral illness that is fairly prevalent. Moreover, having a cold sore overnight can be distressing, especially due to the pain. Read on to find out more about the cause of cold sores and how to cure them. 

Woman getting an injection from a dermatologist for cold sores.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small blister-like infections that often develop on the lips, chin, and cheeks. They are also less common to develop on the gums or inside the mouth. Additionally, cold sores may be painful, itchy, or leave a burning feeling. They then rupture, thus leaving a hard crust on the surface. 

What Causes Cold Sores?

Sometimes, these sores are caused by a different form of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Moreover, approximately 90% of the world’s population is infected with at least one variant of HSV. 

These cold sore viruses are extremely infectious and may be spread through sexual intercourse or other forms of intimate contact. In addition, infected individuals may experience the following when the virus has entered their system: 

  • Symptoms are similar to flu. 
  • Ulcers in or around the mouth or nostrils. 
  • In certain situations, ulcers around the genital region. 

A cold sore breakout may last seven to 14 days without medication until the immune system suppresses the virus. However, the virus remains in the body. Although it’s usually dormant, it may sometimes reactivate and produce cold sores. 

Are Cold Sores Contagious?

Herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores is communicable. This means your cold sores might spread to others. Additionally, they may be transmitted by kissing and other types of skin-to-skin interaction.  

Furthermore, you are more likely to spread the virus to another person if you are experiencing an ongoing cold sore breakout. However, since HSV is a lifelong virus, it might be transmitted at any time even when there are no visible cold sores. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Cold Sores?

Most people can tell when they have a cold sore since they are so visible. However, this is the last sign of an HSV infection in most cases. Furthermore, HSV infection might strike without any symptoms in some individuals or just after a single contact with the virus. 

Cold sores are more likely to appear in clusters. You may be suffering a cold sore infection if you see a clump of little sores on your lips. Moreover, within the first two to 20 days after contact with the virus, the following signs may appear: 

  • Lesions on the tongue, mouth, chin, cheeks, or the nostrils
  • Mouth or tongue pain
  • Lip swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Dehydration 
  • Nausea

A cold sore may burst open and leak approximately two days after it appears. The cold sore may then clear-out and a crust will develop.  

Moreover, most individuals could recover entirely within seven days after acquiring a cold sore. Contact your dermatologist if you get a cold sore that lingers for more than two weeks. 

How To Treat Cold Sores 

Because HSV is a lifelong infection, it can’t be entirely cured. On a positive note, cold sores might subside and go away by themselves after a few weeks. However, if you want to expedite the process or relieve some of the discomforts, you may take a few measures. 

Most individuals with cold sores may manage them with over-the-counter medicines. Topical antiviral medications, such as those containing benzyl alcohol, are also an option. Moreover, cold compresses could alleviate the burning sensation, discomfort, and itching. Additionally, you may use pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. 

In most circumstances, addressing a cold sore infection as soon as possible is the best course of action. Likewise, it’s best to consult a doctor before taking any medication. 

How To Prevent Cold Sores 

There are some measures you may take to prevent cold sore breakouts. By identifying specific triggers, you may avoid or significantly lower the rate of cold sore outbreaks that occur each year. Several frequent triggers to avoid are the following: 

  • Stress and fatigue
  • Illnesses
  • Facial injury
  • Dental treatments
  • Sun exposure
  • Hormonal fluctuation

Along with reducing cold sore breakouts, you need to take precautions to avoid the transmission of cold sores. Take these measures if you’re infected with a cold sore: 

  • Avoid kissing and personal contact with others. 
  • Avoid direct contact with those who have compromised immune systems. 
  • Don’t share your food and drink, glasses, or utensils with anybody else. 
  • Wash your hands regularly to avoid spreading the virus. 

Cold sores can be painful and inconvenient. However, you may manage breakouts at home without difficulties with over-the-counter medications. Moreover, detecting the early signs of an infection and administering medication as soon as possible may be beneficial. Cold sores are usually gone within a few days to a couple of weeks without therapy.