Cold Sores

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are small blisters around the mouth, caused by the herpes simplex virus. The most common strain of the virus is herpes simplex virus 1.

Herpes simplex is not curable, but may lie dormant for long periods of time. Episodes of the cold sores last no longer than two weeks. Hot sun, cold wind, a cold, or a depressed immune system can cause an outbreak of herpes simplex virus.

What are the symptoms of cold sores?

Some people never experience any symptoms with the first attack; others have severe flu-like symptoms and ulcers in and around the mouth. The following are the most common symptoms of cold sores. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Tingling of the lips

  • Small blisters on the lips and mouth that enlarge, burst, then crust over

  • Itching and irritation of the lips and mouth

  • Soreness of the lips and mouth

The symptoms of cold sores may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for cold sores:

Cold sores cannot be cured, but, if symptoms are severe, treatment may help alleviate some symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Antiviral topical ointments (such as acyclovir and penciclovir)

  • Antiviral oral medications (such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valaciclovir)

Cold sores take approximately a week to heal. According to the American Dental Association, antiviral medications may help, but they are ineffective after 3-4 days of blister formation and usually not recommended for otherwise healthy people. Always consult your physician or dentist if the sore does not heal or becomes worse as time passes.  

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