What are Cold
Cold sores, also known as fever
blisters, are tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters
that form around the mouth and are caused by the
herpes simplex virus (usually type 1, or HSV-1)
living inside your nerve tissue. Cold sores
usually do not last longer than two weeks.
However, the sores are highly contagious and
tend to recur when the virus is reactivated by a
trigger such as stress, sunlight, fever or
What is the
difference between a cold sore and a canker
Like cold sores,
canker sores – also known as aphthous ulcers –
can be quite painful and often recur. While cold
sores are caused by a virus, the formation of a
canker sore may be triggered by multiple factors
such as stress, food allergies or a weakened
immune system. A canker sore forms in the soft
tissues of your mouth and is not contagious,
whereas a cold sore usually appears around the
lip area outside the mouth and is highly
contagious. If a cold sore appears inside the
mouth, usually it appears on the non-movable
parts such as the roof, rather than the tongue
or soft palate.
when you are first exposed to HSV-1?
Most people get
HSV-1 infections during infancy or childhood and
usually catch the virus from an infected family
member or friend. Only an estimated 30 percent
of those infected actually develop the
characteristic blisters. If sores do develop,
they can appear anywhere from two to 12 days
after exposure to an infected person. Other
persons with a primary infection may have
flu-like symptoms such as a high fever, sore
throat, swollen neck glands and mouth soreness.
What are the
stages of a cold sore?
Day 1: Prodrome
(tingle) stage - Before a cold sore has formed,
you may feel a tingling, itching or burning
sensation beneath the skin, usually around the
mouth or the base of the nose. Applying
antiviral medications during this stage can help
alleviate cold-sore symptoms.
Days 2 to 3:
Blister stage - An outbreak of fluid-filled
blisters is the first visible sign of
Day 4: Ulcer
or weeping stage - Typically, the most
contagious and painful stage of cold sores
is when blisters rupture, leaving a shallow,
reddish, open sore.
Days 5 to 8:
Crusting stage - After a few days, the
blisters dry up and form a yellow or
brownish crust, which eventually falls off.
During this stage, it is important to care
for the scab, which can crack or break.
Days 9 to 12:
Healing stage - Usually a series of scabs will
form on the lesion, which eventually flake off.
Each new scab will be smaller than the previous
one, until the cold sore heals completely,
usually without scarring.
What triggers a
cold sore outbreak?
There may be long
periods when the herpes virus remains inactive.
The following factors can trigger cold sores:
as cold or flu
stress or fatigue
exposure or ultraviolet lamps
How are cold
Most cold sores are mild and do
not require treatment. Antiviral medications can
reduce the frequency, duration and severity of
outbreaks. Medications with a numbing agent,
such as benzyl alcohol, can help alleviate a
cold sore's burning, itching and pain.
Emollients can reduce cracking and soften scabs.
Applying aloe vera balm three times a day to the
cold sore also can help fight the infection and
over-the-counter remedies don't help, ask your
dentist for a prescription. A dentist also can
accurately diagnose cold sores and base
treatment on important factors such as your age,
overall health, medical history and tolerance
for specific medications.
precautions should be taken?
transmission of the virus to another person,
physical contact with others
utensils, toothbrushes, towels and razors
blisters (always wash your hands after
What can I do
to minimize recurrent outbreaks?
Eat foods high
in lysine (an amino acid found in red meats,
fish and dairy products) or take supplements
sunscreen to the face and lips before going
Shave with a
disposable razor during an outbreak
relaxing activities to reduce stress