Cold sores-also known as fever blisters-are generally found on the lips and mouth. They can also appear elsewhere on the body including the cheeks, fingers, and nose. Cold sores appear when an individual contracts the simplex type 1 virus, or HSV1.
Almost everyone has had a cold sore at some point in their life, for many people they are a regular occurrence. A cold sore usually lasts from 7 to 10 days and they are highly contagious. They can spread from one part of your body to another, so any time you touch one of the sores, you should wash your hands thoroughly.
Some people feel a tingling in the area prior to the eruption of a cold sore, also known as a prodrome. Early treatment can help diminish the severity of an outbreak.
Why do I get cold sores?
You can develop cold sores if you’ve kissed or shared items such as utensils, razors, or towels with someone who has them. You may be asymptomatic for up to 20 days after exposure but blisters will usually appear at the site of contact.
Some external factors can affect the likeliness of a cold sore outbreak:
- Weakened immune system
What are the symptoms of an impending outbreak?
If you’re on the verge of a cold sore outbreak, you may feel flu-like symptoms. You may also experience swollen lymph nodes and itching or tingling in the infected area.
What are the treatment options for cold sores?
The best treatment for cold sores is prevention. Avoid contact and sharing hygiene items with individuals who have cold sores.
The treatment for an outbreak of a cold sore can vary depending on the severity of the blister if it’s acute or chronic, the health of your immune system, and your age. Children are usually affected more severely and should see a doctor if they develop a cold sore. Those who have compromised immunity such as those undergoing chemotherapy should also seek medical attention if they develop a cold sore. Rarely, an individual may develop complications from a cold sore. Many prescription medications are available to treat cold sores. There are also many over-the-counter as well.
How to avoid a cold sore
There’s no absolute formula for avoiding a cold sore but a healthy diet and lifestyle is a good starting point. Limiting stress and getting adequate amounts of sleep and hydration can help. Preventing a cold sore is easier than curing one so it is important to practice good self-care and avoidance.