Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), cold sores, also called fever blisters, are small blisters around the mouth, on the lip, or on the genitals. The surrounding skin is usually swollen, red, and sore. If the blisters break open, they leak a clear fluid, normally form a scab after a few days, and usually heal within several days or up to two weeks.
How does a person get cold sores?
The virus usually enters the body through a break in the skin inside or around the mouth and is spread when someone kisses an infected person, touches a cold sore or the infected fluid or saliva, or shares eating utensils, drinking cups, silverware, towels, toothbrushes, or razors. Other factors that may bring on cold sores include genetics, allergic reactions, physical injuries, stress, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and fatigue.
What are the symptoms?
They can include a fever, swollen glands in the neck, a sore throat, or pain around the mouth or lips. Lesions can also occur in the roof or floor of the mouth or inside the cheek. Some people have the virus but don’t get the actual cold sores or symptoms.
What are the treatments?
Although the sores normally heal by themselves, they can cause pain, uncomfortable symptoms, and embarrassment. Treatment with topical medications, analgesics, ointments, antibiotic creams, or pills may get rid of the sores only one or two days faster, but they can help cold sore relief and ease the symptoms.
How to reduce outbreaks and the virus spread
Wash your hands often, don’t touch the sore, avoid direct contact with people, avoid sun and wind exposure, and talk to your doctor if you continue to have a problem.
• Wash the affected area gently with a liquid cleanser and dry with a paper towel that you can throw away.
• Rinse your mouth with mouthwash or a solution of water and salt to help soothe the sores and reduce irritation.
* Don’t eat salty foods or foods high in acid such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, and pickles as they can irritate the infection.
Unfortunately, after infection, the virus remains in your body. HSV is one of the most common viral infections and lies dormant in the nerve when it is inactive. If you get the sores often, treatment can at least reduce the number you get and how severe they are.