Cold sores and fevers blisters are one and the same. Whatever you choose to call them they are unsightly, sore, embarrassing and more than a little irritating. And yes, cold sores are the herpes virus for which there is no cure.
You will usually find that these happen along the lip line or at the corner of your mouth and more often than not lead to swelling with liquid-filled blisters that are often painful. Cold sores can last from many days to a couple of weeks depending on your immune system and how they’re treated.
While cold sores are nothing new for some there are facts about cold sores and a few surprises that everyone should know and that we’ll detail here.
About Cold Sores – The Claims and Causes
A cold sore is a viral infection and a strain of the herpes simplex virus that can be passed from person to person. The herpes virus associated with a cold sore or fever blister is called the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) or herpes labilais and is not to be confused with the genital herpes virus (HSV-2).
A cold sore is passed from person to person and this includes a parent passing it to their child. Of the many forms of exposure, here are a few ways it can be passed to others if you are infected:
- Drinking from the same beverage straw
- Kissing a friend, partner, spouse or loved one including children
- Sharing a shaving razor
- Using the towels, dishes or utensils of an infected person
- Oral sex
Any break in the skin’s surface or soft tissue areas can provide an entry point for the herpes simplex virus.
The Herpes Simplex Virus HSV-1 and HSV-2 Exchange
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, If you have the cold sore strain of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) or oral herpes, you can give someone gential herpes (HSV-2) by practicing oral sex while you are in an infected state.
The same applies for someone with genital herpes. If a person performs oral sex on a person with genital herpes in an active state, they can get oral herpes (HSV-1) as a result from that act. This adds yet another layer to practicing safe sex.
Why Fever Blisters or Cold Sores Can’t Be Cured
Research indicates that approximately 50% of the people in the United States are infected with the herpes simplex virus whether they know it or not. Those that have it may or may not display the symptoms we detail below. And realize that just because you may not have any symptoms, that doesn’t mean the person you give it to will respond the same way.
The one constant with this virus is there currently is no cure. While your fever blister may heal on the surface, the virus itself has simply become dormant in your nervous system waiting patiently for the next catalyst to make it reappear.
If that’s not bad enough, it won’t necessarily come back in the exact same spot next time.
How Do I Know a Cold Sore is Coming?
The onset of a cold sore will happen in stages so having an understanding of what these stages are and what to expect will help you. You will then be able to take the necessary steps to keep discomfort to a minimum and to keep the virus from spreading.
It should be pointed out that when an initial first-time infection presents itself for some people, it will be more severe than subsequent infections.
- STAGE 1 – This happens with an itching or tingling sensation at the infected location. You could also experience a burning or aching sensation in the mouth area. This is likely to happen a couple of days before the actual blemish or sore protrudes on the skin’s surface.
- You may also experience a sore throat, could feel feverish or have trouble swallowing.
- STAGE 2 – Water filled blisters begin to form around the lip line of your mouth or they can even form on your cheeks or nose. For some, these can occur inside the mouth and are often confused with the non-contagious canker sores. When the blisters form, it’s called an outbreak.
- STAGE 3 – Blisters break open and leak. This is highly contagious when the fluid is exposed and can infect any areas the fluid touches. When the cold sores have opened then over time they drain, form a crust or scab and start to heal. This entire event can last up to two weeks.
What Should I Do Now?
You now know that cold sores are a little more involved than being just a red bump on your lip line. There are steps you can take, however, to help keep your symptoms at bay, promote faster healing and protect those close to you from suffering the same fate.
- Using ice or a cold wash cloth on a sore will ease discomfort for a short period of time
- Over the counter medications that contain docosanol will shorten the length of your outbreak by a couple of days promoting faster healing
- Using a topical solution containing alcohol will speed the drying of the fever blister
- Washing the blister area with an antiseptic soap will help keep the sore from spreading
- Protect your loved ones while not sharing beverages, utensils, towels, lip balm or lipstick, dishes, razors or anything that comes in contact with the infected area
- A kiss while infected is not the one you want remembered. Stop your smooching until your cold sore is healed.
- If your symptoms and cold sores do not heal on their own in two weeks or less, it’s time to see your doctor – see your doctor sooner if symptoms are severe
- The herpes simplex virus can cause blindness if it gets into your eyes – if anywhere near your eyes, see a doctor
- Minimize hot beverages, citrus, salt and spicy foods during an outbreak as this will irritate the cold sore
- Since sun exposure can trigger an outbreak, use sunscreen or a lip balm that contains zinc oxide when you’re out in the sun for any length of time
- Using a lip balm with 1% lemon extract may shorten the healing time
- Eating foods with the amino acid – lysine may help prevent outbreaks. Lysine can be found as a supplement and is also found in foods like fish, yogurt, cheese, high-protein meats, eggs, pistachios and pumpkin seeds
- Reduce your stress. Taking up deep breathing exercises or meditation techniques may help
A Life Sentence…
Once you have the herpes simplex virus, it’s there for life and you can validate this by doing your own research. There are a lot of product manufacturers that would like to relieve you of your hard earned money, claiming to have the cure, so be informed before you buy.
Taking the time to learn more about cold sores will better equip you to recognize their symptoms and you can then take the necessary steps to minimize their impact until the next time.
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Filed under: Lip Health