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Cold Sores: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment

Cold sores popularly referred to as fever blisters is predominantly a viral infection. They appear in the form of minute fluid-filled blisters across your lips. Cold sores could be grouped into various patches, and once they break, a crust like structure appears on the top of the cold sore. Additionally, these sores heal up in a span of two to four weeks. Also, you need not to worry about those unwanted scars. In rarest case, do these appear in your hands or fingers.

There is a huge possibility of cold sores to spread through physical contact. The HSV-1 virus is considered responsible for herpes caused. Likewise, these virus are held responsible for causing genital herpes (HSV-2). These can have an impact on both the mouth as well as genitals. Oral sex is another way of transmitting this herpes. Even if you are not able to view the sore, it is highly contagious. Also, there are no proven treatments to cure the infection caused due to the virus with the extended possibility of reoccurrence. Alternatively, you can try taking antiviral medicines to either heal them and also reduce the frequency of their return.

Causes of Cold Sores

Cold Sores are mainly caused by the virus namely simplex herpes. Where HSV-1 leads to the onset of cold sores, HSV- 2 accounts for genital herpes. Sores caused by either of the two viruses are same as they appear and it is largely possible for HSV-1 to cause sores on genitals and HSV-2 virus to cause sores on the mouth. True that the cold sores that are visible spread through contact, but the ones that cannot be seen are also contagious.

It is possible to get infected by HSV virus while you are near the person having cold sores. Additionally, kissing, sharing food or cosmetic with the infected person are other reasons for having a cold sore. Another common cause for the spread of cold sores is oral sex.

Having a cold sore once in a lifetime increases the possibility of having the sore again at the same place. The virus stays dormant in the never cells of your skin and has a greater possibility to occur again. It is evident that you can cure the sore, but you cannot get rid of it. Few have a weaker immune system and are more prone to having a cold sore.

Risk Factors of Cold Sores

Several reports suggest that around 90% of people across the globe have had exposure to the simplex virus once in a lifetime.

Few risk factors associated with the reinfection of cold sore includes:

  • Fever or viral infection.
  • Exposure to Sun
  • Menstruation
  • Stress
  • A weaker immune system.
  • Extensive Burns
  • Chemotherapy
  • Eczema
  • Dental Work.

Additionally, if you are exposed to the fluid present in cold sore via kissing or sexual contact, then you own the risk of having one. Also sharing foods, personal care products such as toothbrush or razor leverage the probability of developing a cold sore. Again if you come in close vicinity with the saliva of the infected person, you are more likely to have cold sores.

Additional Complications

An infection caused by the simplex herpes might aggravate a few more symptoms and serious condition. This is mainly because your body is not ready to combat the virus. In case you experience high fever, red eyes or find it hard to breathe, then you should immediately seek medical advice. People who are suffering from diseases that can reduce the efficiency of your immune system are more prone to developing a cold sore. People are having skin related issues such as eczema witness greater risk of cold cores flaring across the entire body.

Symptoms of Cold Sores

Before developing, cold sores induce a burning or a tingling sensation on lips and also all over your face. If you have such a feeling, then this is the best time to start treating the cold sore. These pass through multiple stages:

  • The first stage being the time when a person has just started having a tingling or a burning sensation. This is possibly a day before the actual sore develops.
  • Next, you would see blisters filled with fluid breaking out of the skin when the skin border kisses the skin of your face. It would not be surprising to see cold sore develop beside your nose or on cheeks.
  • Lastly, the fluid-filled blisters combine and burst. This leaves behind sores that are open and will ooze out the fluid. This then leads to the formation of crust on top of those sores.

Talking about the symptoms, they vary from whether it is a recurrence or the first attack. These stay dormant for around 2-3 days, and it takes nearly 2-4 weeks for the sore to heal totally. Nonetheless, the place of recurrence is the same and is less severe as compared to the first outbreak.

The first outbreak symptoms in their

  • High Iner
  • A sore throat
  • A headache
  • Eroded gums that can be painful.
  • Swollen Nodes of Lymph
  • Muscle pain

There is a high possibility of having a sore inside the mouth of kids below five years. Do not mistake them with canker sores.

Diagnosis of Cold Sores

As stated, cold sores develop at the outer lining of the lips and have fluids filled in it. A doctor would examine the area around your lips and look for the presence of fluid-filled sores. Depending upon the stage of sore you see in, the same would prescribe certain medications and additional preventive measures to reduce the rate of recurrence.

Treatment of Cold Sores

Though it is not possible to cure cold sores, people who witness the same can undertake several measures to treat them. Doctors prescribe few ointments and creams for physical application on the sore, and also few suggest the intake of oral drugs to treat better. In addition to all above, you can try several home remedies that are not just easy but also very effective in treating cold sores.

Ointments: When those fluid-filled sores start getting on your nerves, and it becomes difficult to bear the pain, you can consider the usage of antiviral creams or ointment such as Denavir. The antiviral ointments are the most efficient when you apply them soon after the first sign of cold sores pop up. You need to apply this ointment four to five times a day for the next four days.

Abreva is another significant ointment you can use for the application on cold sores. This is highly effective in shortening the cold sore outbreak and is easily found over the counter.

Oral medication given for the treatment of cold sores include acyclovir, valacyclovir, and the famciclovir. However, make sure you have a prescription to avail to there drugs. For cases when the complications tend to exist for long, doctors advise the regular intake of oral drugs.

Home Remedies for Cold Sores

The best way to treat cold sores is the application of ice packs or a washcloth dipped in cold water all over the area affected by cold sores. Apart from this, you can also use a lip balm that has a lemon extract to cure cold sores.

One common way to deter the outbreak of cold sores frequently is the intake of lysine supplements. Another commonly available element is aloe vera gel. You can easily find them in aloe vera plants and also the same is available in the market for purchase. Application of gel over the sores help soothe pain and induce relief to them. Try applying an aloe vera gel directly or indirectly with a lip balm that has aloe vera in it. Using the same three times a day brings effective results.

On the other hand, using products made from petroleum jelly such as Vaseline does not cure sores but reduces discomfort to a considerable extent. The jelly is highly effective in the prevention of development of cracks. Additionally, the use of petroleum jelly acts as a barrier against the irritants present outside.

A natural astringent that helps both heal and dry out those cold sores is Witch Hazel. Also, Witch Hazel is found to possess antiviral properties that prevent the cold sore from flaring further. One thing you should take care of is when you are inducing any home remedy or applying any ointment or cream, always use a cotton ball or swab to wipe it off.

Prevent Cold Sores

As said that cold sores are highly contagious, you should always keep your hands clean and also avoid the contact physically with anyone. Also, make sure that few products you use such as lip balm or the toothbrush are not shared or used by anyone else. Multiple usages of such products increase the probability of a person in your vicinity to have cold sore simultaneously. In case you experience severe pain, you can take pain-relieving medicines only after the same has been advised by the doctor.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.