Herpes infection on the lips and around the mouth, scientifically known as oral herpes or cold sores, is an infectious condition caused by the herpes simplex virus. Apart from lips, other areas that may get affected due to this infection are, mouth, tongue, insides of the cheeks, and gums. The virus spreads in humans through infected saliva, skin, or the mucous membranes.
This condition is caused by two viruses, namely, herpes simplex virus, type 1 or herpes-1, and herpes simplex virus, type 2 or herpes-2. Almost 80% of the cases of oral herpes are caused by the type 1 virus. The remaining are caused by the herpes-2 virus.
The symptoms take anywhere from 2 to 12 days, after the infection has occurred, to present themselves. Here are the commonly observed symptoms.
- The symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body ache, etc., last for about three weeks. They may continue even after the infection has died down.
- Before the sores actually appear on the skin, there is a kind of burning sensation felt in that area. It is followed by skin itching, and then finally the sores appear.
- The sores, which appear as a result of herpes are small gray ulcers which have a red base. The sores have a tendency to become crusty and dry, a few days after their emergence.
- Sores formed on lips, spread to the chin and the neck area as well. There is swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck, which can make swallowing of food really difficult.
- There is swelling in the gums, which makes the process of chewing difficult.
The doctor takes a sample of the sore to identify the virus, and then, recommends the treatment accordingly.
In order to relieve the painful symptoms associated with oral herpes, a topical anesthetic is generally prescribed by the doctors. To relieve the associated body pain and fever, certain medications such as, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, may also be recommended. There are certain oral medications for treating oral herpes, but they are meant only for infants or people with a weak immune system.
Herpes blisters on the lips, gums, around the mouth and neck, can make eating and drinking quite difficult, which in turn, can cause dehydration. In order to replenish the lost fluids from the body, patients are recommended to drink a lot of water and juices.
A home remedy for treating these cold sores, is to apply ice packs on the affected area. The cool temperature of the ice helps in making the virus dormant and hence, clears the sore on the lip. Another home remedy is to place wet tea bags on the sores after every few hours.
The symptoms of oral herpes generally clear out in about three weeks. Apart from the above-mentioned treatment and natural remedies, the patients are forbidden to touch their saliva, the skin, which has sores, and the mucus. It is not a very serious condition in most cases, however, if the infection spreads to other organs of the body, it can prove to be fatal.