What is a Cold Sore?
A cold sore is a red or dark pink fluid-filled blister around the mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores may appear on other parts of your face. Rarely, cold sores can spread to your nose, inside of your mouth, or even your fingers.
Cold sores are also known as fever blisters, herpes labialis, or oral herpes.
Generally, cold sores spread through close contact with someone with an active lesion, like drinking from the same glass or kissing. However, cold sores may be contagious before a blister is visible.
Cold sores may come back at any time, even after an active outbreak has ended. There is no known cure for cold sores, which are a recurring skin condition.
Tingling, burning, and itchy facial skin are the first signs of a fever blister/cold sore. Catching a cold sore early is important to shorten its duration, so begin treatment immediately.
As the cold sore virus progresses, you’ll experience pain and tenderness. Multiple sores may appear.
Especially during your first cold sore outbreak, you may also experience symptoms like: sore throat, painful gums, dehydration, swollen lips, fever, headache, nausea, swelling of the lymph nodes, and general muscle and joint aches.
Rarely, your eyes may become infected. If you experience any symptoms in or around your eyes during a cold sore infection, call a doctor immediately. HSV-1 infections in the eyes may lead to vision loss if not addressed right away.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1).
“Herpes” can sound alarming, but it’s an incredibly common virus. 50-80% of adults in the United States carry HSV-1, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. However, some individuals never develop a cold sore even though they carry the virus.
Most people, however, will experience at least one or two cold sores in their lifetime.
New or recurring cold sore outbreaks may be triggered by a weak immune system for any reason, any viral or bacterial infection (cold, flu, etc.), sun exposure, chronic stress, fatigue, menstruation, dental work, or an injury to facial skin.
Most cold sores can be treated at home without problems. However, children and people at risk of complications should be monitored more closely and may need professional attention.
You should contact a doctor immediately if you or your child have a cold sore and a high or long-lasting fever, breathing or swallowing problems, irritation around the eyes (which may or may not cause redness or discharge) or the spread of cold sores to an eczema breakout.