Are cold sores contagious? Can they be transmitted from sharing meals, utensils or through kissing? Learn all about cold sores transmission from the following article.
Before we get to finding out the details regarding cold sores transmission, let’s go through a brief overview of the phenomenon of cold sores itself to better understand the nature of this affliction in order to fully absorb the mechanics of its transmission and how such transmission can be prevented or avoided.
Also known as fever blisters, cold sores that occur inside the mouth and on the lips are a symptom of oral herpes, a viral infection brought on by the invasion of your body by the Herpes simplex virus. A cold sores outbreak on the lips and inside the mouth typically lasts for about a fortnight after which the fever blisters disappear on their own. Any kind of medication administered for treating these fever blisters only provides relief to the symptoms, viz., burning sensation, pain, etc.
However, the end of an outbreak does not signify an end of the viral infection. Although the blisters disappear after a couple of weeks, the virus remains inside the body, especially among the facial nerves, in a dormant state. The peculiar thing about the herpes virus is that once you get infected by it, it never really leaves your body. It stays right inside you in an inactive state, getting activated occasionally under situations of physical and environmental stress leading to those canker outbreaks in and around the mouth.
Transmission of Cold Sores
Viruses are wickedly tricky pathogens, especially the herpes virus. While it doesn’t leave a host’s body once it has managed to infect the host, this virus is extremely obliging whenever presented with an opportunity to get transmitted to and infect others. In case you’re wondering what the immune system – the most potent anti-pathogen and biological anti-virus provided by Nature – does to eliminate this virus from the body, I’ll let you in on a little secret.
The herpes virus is capable of tricking the immune system in believing that it is not present in the body. In its dormant state, the herpes virus remains undetected by the immune system and any medication administered for alerting the immune defenses to the presence of a viral pathogen inside the body also does not work due to this reason. Coming back to cold sores transmission, the herpes virus which is responsible for these sores can be transmitted from an infected individual to a non infected one through any of the following ways:
- Sharing the same drink or drinking from the same glass;
- Sharing the same food or eating from the same plate/utensil;
- Sharing a cigarette or lipstick;
- Oral sexual contact with an infected individual;
- A pregnant woman who is infected with the herpes virus can pass on the infection to her fetus;
- Touching the blister and then touching another individual with the same hand without washing with a disinfectant;
Cold sores can also be transmitted from individuals who are carriers of the herpes simplex virus but have remained asymptomatic. They may never have had an outbreak, but that doesn’t make the infection any less contagious and these individuals have an equal probability of transmitting the virus to others.
Cold sores treatment includes application of topical solutions of behenyl alcohol to the site of the sores. Zinc oxide and zinc sulfate ointments can also be applied along with behenyl alcohol to soothe the sores and speed up their healing. A comprehensive antiviral treatment regime includes administration of the drugs aciclovir and penciclovir.
Remember, though, that these treatment measures only provide relief from discomfort and speed up the healing of the cold sores. They do not completely banish the herpes virus from the body. A lot of research has been going into finding a permanent cure since several years, and if reports are to be trusted, a medical breakthrough that will distort the virus’ ability to hide form the immune system can be expected in a few years down the line.