This is a viral infection that causes blister-like sores, most commonly on the outer edge of the lip. They are also called fever blisters.
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are blister-like sores that typically develop on the outer edge of the lip. (They can also occur in the mouth.) The sores are caused by one of the herpes simplex viruses, which most people were infected with at some point in their childhood. After the initial infection, the virus remains inactive in some of the nerves on the face. Periodically, the virus may become active again and cause cold sores to redevelop. It is not known what triggers the virus to become active again. Some of the potential reasons include:
Cold sores are most commonly caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). They can also be caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the virus that causes genital herpes. They are contagious from the time the sores develop until they are crusted over. People often have symptoms before the cold sores develop. Some of these symptoms include
Cold sores usually last 1 to 2 weeks and can be spread by sharing personal hygiene products or having close personal contact with an infected person. They can go away without treatment, but there are antiviral medications that can decrease the pain and help shorten the time you are ill. Some other medications that may be recommended include over-the-counter pain medications and anti-viral ointments.
Some things you can do at home to help control the symptoms associated with cold sores include:
To prevent reoccurrences, or decrease the spreading of the virus, you can:
In general, people with a cold sore should avoid contact with anyone in a high-risk group. This includes:
If you contact your healthcare provider for evaluation of your cold sores, be prepared to discuss your symptoms, how long you've had them and if you have had them before.
What should I ask my healthcare provider about my cold sores?
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