Cold sores, which are also called fever blisters, develop in the mouth due to Herpes Simplex Virus type 1. This HealthHearty article provides information on the contributing factors, symptoms, and treatment of cold sores.
There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Herpes Simplex Virus type-1 (HSV 1) is the causal organism for the development of cold sores or fever blisters in the mouth. While HSV-1 mostly causes oral herpes, Herpes Simplex Virus type-2 (HSV-2) is responsible for causing genital herpes. It must be noted that both these viruses could cause blisters on the mouth or genitals. Oral herpes is characterized by the formation of a cluster of blisters on the lips and around the mouth. The virus can spread to others through direct contact. So, kissing an infected person, touching the sore or the infected fluid, or sharing items such as utensils or razors, could cause the transmission of the virus. The virus enters the body through a break in the skin around or inside the mouth. More than 80% of the people could become infected with this virus, but the first/primary infection doesn’t cause symptoms. Thereafter, the virus remains dormant (inactive), and could get activated from time to time. Stress, illness, trauma to the lips, exposure to the sun, etc., are some of the factors that could trigger an outbreak.
Though primary infection doesn’t usually cause symptoms, children under the age of five years could experience symptoms such as high temperature, headache, swollen and painful gums (gingivitis), and blisters inside the mouth (stomatitis). In case of adults,primary infection could cause sore throat, swollen tonsils, fever, and headache.
The symptoms can be categorized on the basis of stages. These include:
➠ Itching and a tingling/burning sensation are experienced on the first and second day. These sensations are experienced at the spot where the blisters will eventually appear. This phase is also referred to as the prodrome stage.
➠ A cluster of fluid-filled blisters appear on the second and the third day
➠ The weeping phase is characterized by the rupturing of the blisters and formation of a painful sore. Fluid oozes out. It must be noted that contact with this fluid can cause the transmission of the virus.
➠ In the crusting phase, the lesion dries, thereby leading to the formation of a scab with a brownish crust.
➠ In the healing phase, scabs flake off, thereby forming scabs that are smaller in size. Thereafter, the lesion heals. It doesn’t leave any scars.
Treatment and Precautionary Measures
The infection lasts for 10 to 14 days. Though there’s no cure for oral herpes, the symptoms can be alleviated with the help of certain drugs. Antiviral drugs such as penciclovir, famciclovir, valacyclovir, or acyclovir are prescribed. Over-the-counter drugs such as Super Lysine, Herpecin-L Lip Balm, H-Balm, and Viroxyn can be used. Application of ice would also help provide relief. You can also apply Vaseline on your lips to keep them moisturized.
Also, follow these precautionary measures:
➠ Stress can cause the virus to get reactivated. So, practice relaxation techniques to avoid stress.
➠ Exposure to sunlight is also considered to be a trigger. So, wear sunblock on your face and apply a lip balm when going outdoors. It is advisable to apply a sunscreen or lip balm with a sun protection factor or 15 or more.
➠ Avoid physical contact with someone who has a cold sore. Don’t kiss someone who has a cold sore, and refrain from having oral sex if you or your partner has a cold sore/genital herpes.
➠ Don’t share any creams, medicines, make-up or any object, which may have come into contact with an infected area.
➠ Use an antibacterial soap to wash your hands. Also, refrain from touching the blisters every now and then. Wash your hands after touching the blisters.
➠ Refrain from consuming foods that are salty, acidic, or spicy.
Do follow the aforementioned precautionary measures, so as to prevent an outbreak. Also, avoid physical contact during an outbreak, so as to prevent the transmission of the virus to others.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.