What is a Cold Sore?
Cold sores refer to an infection associated with fever blisters. It appears as tiny, unpleasant sores or bumps, also commonly called herpes labialis. The infection occurs on the lips, specifically on its lower part. It is often healed within ten days following its initial outbreak and transmission. The symptoms of cold sores are manageable, but for first time infections, the symptoms can be severe. It could make a person very ill and affect children regardless of age.
The herpes simplex virus or HSV is commonly transmitted through a close contract with an individual with the same virus. Aside from that, the infection can also be contracted by means of oral sex. This infection occurs as the virus enters and penetrates the mouth, even the genital parts of both man and woman. An HSV-induced cold sore is diagnosed based on its corresponding symptoms, add to that the series of blood testing to achieve a concrete diagnosis.
Since its highly contagious, safety precautions must be observed to prevent the infection and avoid yourself from acquiring other health dilemmas. As there isn’t any form of medicine that can cure cold sores, there are topical creams and pills available to control this infection and provide quality assistance to the body’s immune system.
Signs & Symptoms
As mentioned, the most affected part of the infection is the lips. But aside from that area of the face, the infection could also emerge on the cheeks and nose. The glaring signs and symptoms of cold sores vary, being dependent on the initial infection of HSV.
Cold sores are capable of staying longer on the affected part of the face. It can stay there for a few days or even weeks. The healing time is not guaranteed but the symptoms showed can determine whether the infections is severe or not. As for the re-occurring infection, the part as to where the initial outbreak came into sight will be the same spot for the infection.
A cold sore go through three infective stages. These are as follows:
- Tingling/Burning/Itching – Individuals experience the following sensation on their lips, usually in a day or so.
- Blisters – Painful spots emerge on the surface of the skin, especially the face. These spots will eventually develop into blisters.
- Scabbing or crusting – During this stage, the painful blisters burst and bleed. Scabs are then formed, crusting over and falling off.
For initial and first-time infections of HSV, the signs and symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
- Red (sometimes painful), swollen gums
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands or swollen lymph nodes (specifically on the neck)
- Burning sensation involving the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe headache
- Stomach pain
The symptoms mentioned above should go away in time. Moreover, it is also necessary to learn when and how to see a healthcare professional if the infection gets worse.
- Seek medical care immediately by calling your healthcare professional if the cold sores do not heal.
- Immune system has become fragile to more infections.
- Symptoms of HSV become severe (both in its first infection and recurrences).
- Cold sores have reappeared frequently.
- Experiencing eye irritation along with the cold sore infection – your immune system has received so much damages.
Causes of Cold Sores
The two main types of herpes simplex virus are HSV-1 and HSV-2. Cold sores are a product of HSV-1, while HSV-2 triggers the appearance of genital herpes or sores in the genital area. Practice utilizing clean equipment and cloth in your hygiene to avoid probable infection. As much as possible, prevent yourself from using shared items, which include towels, spoons or fork, and razors.
The most contagious part of a cold sore is when it is on its third stage already. A high case of probable infection may happen even if blisters have not existed on the dermis. Furthermore, in cases such as infection recurrence, the same treatment must be administered.
Treatment and Prevention
The treatment for cold sores involves the usage of antiviral medications. Your healthcare professional will likely prescribe these medications to you. One of the FDA-approved medications is penciclovir.
Consider the following precautions below that indicate the measures to prevent your risk for cold sore infection.
- Herpes simplex virus is capable of spreading quickly. This is especially true if the blisters have bled already. Once this occurs, the viral transmission becomes active, making it impossible to stop the spread. Practice yourself by not kissing people with active bumps or cold sores. Other than that, it is best to avoid engaging in unprotected sexual activity. Doing so will only give the virus easy access for possible transmission.
- It is never too late in avoiding shared items (mostly personal ones) with an individual with the virus.
- Your hygiene plays a vital role in viral infection. If you happen to have the virus, always keep your hands clean and tidy.