Research suggests that over half of the American population is affected by cold sores, but not all show symptoms or know they have contracted the virus that causes these unsightly, painful blisters. With the cold and flu season quickly approaching, cold sores will be showing up on faces even more frequently. Few know the facts behind these embarrassing sores, but you’re smarter than most people, right?
What Causes Cold Sores?
Cold sores, which are also called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Before they appear on the skin, they cause a tingling feeling and a reddish tint on the skin. They will eventually become red, bubbled blisters in and around the mouth. After initially contracting the virus, you may develop a herpes sore on your lip for a variety of reasons, such as stress, trauma to the face, flu, or a fever. The lesions usually last from 7-14 days, then disappear.
How Cold Sores Spread
The HSV-1 virus can spread through contact with a person who has an active blister. The virus enters the body through broken skin or saliva. Sharing beverages, eating utensils, or kissing can spread the virus. In some cases, the virus can remain dormant for years before symptoms appear.
There are ways to prevent contracting HSV-1 and treat cold sores, but there is currently no cure. If you’ve contracted the virus, you may not experience symptoms for years.
Tips to prevent the spread of herpetic lesions:
- Avoid touching your mouth if you have a sore. Touching and picking at a sore can also cause a bacterial infection.
- Avoid spicy foods, which can cause irritation and an outbreak.
- Do not kiss someone who has an active cold sore blister.
- Do not share towels, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has cold sores.
- Apply UV sunscreen to the lips if you’ll be out in the sun.
If you have questions about your cold sores or would like suggestions on how to remedy them, Dr. Fondriest in Lake Forest, Illinois is here to help. If it’s time to schedule your dental appointment, please contact us at 847.234.0517.