Cold sores are commonly known as Fever Blisters that usually appear on the lips or near the mouth in the form of lesions that are caused by a virus called – Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1).
What is a Cold Sore?
A cold sore is a form of blister that is filled with highly contagious fluid. They are not as serious as they look but you do want to take care of them and not get infected again. More than half of the population is infected by HSV-1 every year and sometimes they are infected once or twice in a lifetime. There is no fixed pattern to the outbreak of cold sores as it varies from person to person.
Who Is Affected by Cold Sores?
People of all ages are prone to get cold sores once in a lifetime. Though, it is more common for children to get infected by this virus at the playground or school. Whenever there is an open skin around your mouth or on your lips, and you touch the wound with bare hands, the virus enters through the lesion and forms a blister.
When an individual with a cold sore shares their spoon, utensils, razor or kiss an uninfected person, the fluid spreads and the virus causes a lesion and forms cold sores.
Note: Cold sores are lesions that do not just happen around the mouth. If you are not careful or are being reckless, there are chances of forming lesions near your genitals.
What Are the Symptoms of Cold Sores?
When you are infected by any virus the first time, your body needs to identify them and produce antibodies against them which makes the symptoms more severe.
Tingling, burning, or itchy sensation around the mouth and/or on the lips that occur 12 to 24 hours before the appearance of the cold sore.
As the blister begins forming, the area becomes red and swollen which starts paining eventually.
Over a few days, the blister ruptures and reeks of a yellowish-white fluid out of it.
By the 4th or the 5th day, the cold sore will appear. This looks crusty and scabby that might crack and bleed as it is healing.
Do not peel off the scab, it will come off by itself which will then reveal skin and may look pinkish red for a few days.
Cold sores take about 1-2 weeks to form and completely heal.
What Triggers a Cold Sore?
Once you are infected by the cold sore virus – Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1), the virus never leaves your system. You do heal from the infection of the virus that caused cold sores, but the virus remains in the nerve cells of your face in an inactive form. To develop the cold sores again, you need to wake up or trigger the virus to infect you. The virus travels through the nerves of your face and develops a cold sore near the mouth or on your lips.
Several factors trigger cold sores:
Hormonal imbalance whilst pregnant or menstruating.
Extreme hot or cold temperatures.
Suffering from a cold or the flu.
Once the virus is triggered, it will cause a cold sore and go back to inactive/sleep form again. Sometimes, people do get infected by the Herpes Simplex Virus but do not form any cold sores.
How to Treat or Get Rid of Cold Sores?
There is no treatment for cold sores but all you could do is get rid of cold sores fast.
Over-the-counter ointments: There are several creams and ointments available at a pharmacy that do not require a prescription. You can talk to the pharmacist about your symptoms, and they can guide you well. These ointments will help heal faster and ease your symptoms.
Pain killers: If you are suffering from intensive pain, you can take oral painkillers like ibuprofen to ease the discomfort around your mouth or use ointments like lidocaine that will relieve pain when applied directly on the blister.
SPF balm: Do not walk outside in the sun or expose your cold sore to the sun while it is healing. Use an SPF 30 lip balm to avoid sunburn and also prevent yourself from further developing another cold sore.
No acidic foods: Avoid the consumption of acidic food like tomatoes, oranges, fruit juices, etc., to avoid exasperation of the cold sore.
Keep the area cool: You want to try and keep the area cool by damping a cold cotton cloth over the area to soothe the cold sore. Wash the towel after every use and make sure nobody else uses it.
How to Prevent Cold Sores?
To prevent getting infected by the HSV-1 virus in the first place, follow these precautious measures below:
Do not share a kiss or any utensils with individuals who have cold sores.
Do not share lipsticks, razors, straws, or even towels for that matter.
Wash hands and face after arriving home.
Do not touch your face or genitals before washing your hands.
If you believe you have come in contact with an individual infected by the HSV-1 virus, follow these:
Stay healthy: If you are infected by the virus, eat leafy vegetables, and stay hydrated.
Rest: Do not stress yourself out physically and rest as much as you can. If you tire yourself out, your immune system will fall weak, and you may not be able to resist or fight the virus.
Protect yourself from the sun: Protect your lips and mouth from the sun to avoid an outbreak.
Be sure to not spread the cold sore to anybody around you including adults and babies.
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