Cold Sores

Cold Sores

cold sores

A herpes simplex virus (HSV) can occur in areas of the mouth, skin, genital area and face. Most people infected with this virus will periodically notice a painful blister that appears near the area where the virus originally entered the body.

The most common places that herpes simplex lesions appear can be found around the mouth and lips. These are referred to as cold sores.

There are two types of herpes simplex virus, Type I and Type II. Type 1 is also called herpes labilis and is responsible for most infections above the waist, most commonly cold sores.

Type II HSV occurs below the waist, which in turn leads to genital herpes. Cold sores may appear, retreat to dormancy for several years, then reappear suddenly.

Once infection begins, the virus enters nerve cells and begins its journey to the ganglion, where it lies dormant. At any time the virus can travel back to the skin, an event known as replicating. This is when you will notice a recurrence of blisters and sores in or around your mouth. Some conditions aggravate the virus, causing a recurrence, such as:

  • Fever
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • UV Rays
  • Stress
  • Skin Trauma
  • Immune system changes

HSV-1 infections are contagious and the virus can be spread from person to person; the most common way of transportation is saliva, as in a kiss or when an infected person shares a drink with someone else. This virus is most likely to be transferred when it is present as a cold sore. Viral transmissions are mush less common when the virus is dormant.

Symptoms of Cold Sores

The most common appearance of cold sores is a blister (or even blisters) on a red base. The blisters will dry up very quickly and leave scabs that can lasts for days or even weeks; this of course depends on the severity of the cold sore. These cold sores or herpes infections are dry to the touch and feel crusty. During the healing time, these scabs often itch. Primary herpes refers to the first episode of symptoms after being infected. This episode often results in painful sores on the lips, gums, and mouth.

The first attack can sometimes be joined by fever, bleeding of the gums and swollen glands along with the painful sores or blisters, symptoms normally lasting a few days to up to six weeks. Not everyone will experience a severe primary attack — some will be infected with no symptoms at all. Although the additional symptoms may be uncomfortable to say the least, they are a result of your body’s production of antibodies to fight the herpes virus. This process will help reduce the recurrence of herpes and make future breakouts mild, if they occur at all.

Treatment of Cold Sores

cold sores

Treatment for HSV-1 depends on the severity of the outbreak. Frequent hand washing and cool-moist compresses on the infected area help reduce the pain associated with a cold sore.

Over-the-counter medication or topical ointments are also available, which are generally effective. Abreva, a prescription medication, can reduce the healing time of the cold sores and blisters. However some topical ointments offered over-the-counter may just relieve the pain of the cold sore or blister.

Pain relievers, such as Tylenol can assist in relieving any pain caused by the infection, as well as manage other symptoms during a primary outbreak.

Chances are fairly good that you will contract HSV-1 at some point in your life — one 2004 study found that as many as 57.7% of Americans were infected with HSV-1. Up to 90% of adults will be infected by HSV-1 by the age of 50. While the virus may be difficult to avoid, common health practices like frequent hand washing can help prevent the virus from entering your body.

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