Let's begin by putting the most basic doubt regarding the difference between cold sore vs fever blister to final and eternal rest - they both mean the same thing! Both these terms are, and can be, used interchangeably to refer to the sores or blisters (technically speaking, lesions on the skin) that appear on either of the lips, usually the lower lip, after you've had a spell of common cold, flu, fever, or any illness that takes a toll on your immune system.
No matter what you call it, the underlying pathogen that leads to the formation of these labial lesions is one and the same - the Herpes simplex virus. Now that the intrinsic doubt regarding both terms has been cleared (hopefully!), let's get to understand the phenomenon of cold sores, a trifle closely.
Causes of Cold Sores
The proper medical term for a cold sore is Herpes labialis, and is caused by the Herpes Simplex virus - 1 (HSV-1). This viral pathogen resides among the facial nerves, remaining dormant most of the time, and causing an outbreak at times when the body is already under physical or environmental stress that leads to weakened immune defenses. While the immune system is busy fighting other infections, the HSV-1 takes this opportunity to surface and become active. This is the reason why cold sores or fever blisters appear when the host is already experiencing some other ailment such as common cold, flu, and associated fevers and chills.
Due to this reason alone, these viral lesions have come to be known as cold sores or fever blisters, as they typically appear when the host gets a cold or fever. Although not life-threatening, the most disturbing aspect of a herpes simplex virus infection is that, once you have it, you have it for life. You can treat the sores and get relief from them temporarily, but the virus stays inside you forever!
That must make you wonder what makes the virus stay put inside you despite the immune system keeping a vigil over you and fighting all sorts of foreign particles including pathogenic organisms, right? Well, a very interesting aspect about the cellular architecture of this virus is a particular protein in its genetic structure that allows the virus to enter a dormant, inactive state, which prevents the virus from getting detected by the immune system's biological scanning system.
Since our immune system is so designed that it can only detect and annihilate active pathogens, this virus simply evades the immune defenses by not being apparent to them at all! When the body is attacked by other pathogens leading to physical stress, the HSV takes advantage of the now-busy-fighting-another-illness immune system, and surfaces in the form of sores on the lips.
How to Get Rid of Cold Sores
While the viral infection itself is not curable as of today (although a lot of research has been happening towards finding a permanent cure, which has shown positive results, instilling hope for the near future), the sores or blisters can be effectively treated and got rid off in a short span of time. A lot of antiviral medications are available over the counter, that reduce the healing time of these sores, although they don't eradicate the underlying virus completely. These medications are available in the form of oral as well as topical preparations.
A popular home remedy that is effective in getting rid of these sores while they are still in their early stages of eruption, include rubbing alcohol over the tingling areas. Rubbing ice also achieves similar results, as the low temperature of the surrounding environment is not very welcoming for the virus to grow and spread, sending the virus back to sleep mode.
When you get a cold sore, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind to prevent it from spreading to other parts of your body (these sores can spread to other parts of your body as well as get transmitted to others!). Avoid touching the sores and then touching other parts of the body or things around you. Keep the sores clean and dry as much as possible. Avoid sharing glasses, utensils, etc., to prevent transmission of the infections pathogen to other unsuspecting individuals. Rest as much as possible and eat a lot of vitamin rich foods.
Adequate rest and lots of nutrition boosts up the immune system, which in turn, leads to faster disappearance of these sores. That concludes our discussion on cold sores vs fever blisters, with a few additional details thrown in, in keeping with Buzzle's tradition of offering a little something extra!