What is a cold sore?
Cold sores are blisters caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are two main herpes simplex viruses, HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 is typically responsible for genital herpes. However, it’s important to realize that both viruses can potentially cause cold sores.
What do cold sores look like?
Cold sores are small, fluid filled blisters. Herpes infections can often appear in clusters, so you may have more than cold sore at a time.
Where do cold sores appear?
Cold sores usually appear on the outside of your mouth and lips, but they can also show up on your nose and even your cheeks.
How long do cold sores last?
They may last anywhere from a week to 10 days and are highly contagious.
How do cold sores spread?
Close skin to skin contact such as kissing, sharing drinks or sexual contact. It is advisable not to share anything that you have used around your mouth like lip balms, razors, glasses and cutlery. Also avoid engaging in oral sex when you have an active cold sore.
What are the stages of a cold sore?
A cold sore usually goes through the following 5 stages:
Stage 1: You will experience a sensation of tingling and itching about 24 hours before, usually at the spot where the blisters are about to erupt.
Stage 2: Red, swollen blisters filled with fluid appear.
Stage 3: The blisters start to ooze or burst and develop into painful sores.
Stage 4: Around a week later, the sores will start drying out and will scab over causing a lot of cracking and itching.
Stage 5: The scabs fall off and the sores heal.
Cold sore remedies
There are a variety of cold sore treatments, cold sore medicines and cold sore remedies
Cold sore cream
Cold sore creams are readily available in most pharmacies and can be prescribed at London Doctors Clinic. The cream contains an active medicinal ingredient called Aciclovir. It should be applied as early as possible, ideally when the tingling sensation begins and before the blister appears.
The cold sore cream will help to reduce the duration and helps to suppress the herpes virus, it should be used multiple times a day to speed up the process of healing. You should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before and after applying to help avoid spreading your cold sore to other parts of your body or to someone else. To apply the cream, dab it onto the affected area rather than rubbing. Cold sores do get itchy and form scabs but try your best to avoid picking them.
Cold sore medicine
Your family doctor or Private GP may prescribe you a cold sore treatment such as antiviral tablets that may include Aciclovir or Valaciclovir. Cold sore tablets should be taken as early as possible, ideally in the first stage in the development of the cold sore. They are highly effective and are typically taken between 3-5 times a day for 5-7 days to help treat your cold sores.
Will I keep getting cold sores?
Once you have the experience, you’re likely have another at some point in your life. Like many other infections, once you are infected with the herpes simplex virus it lives in a dormant or ‘sleeping’ phase in your body.
Typically, people can be prone to outbreaks when unwell, rundown or stressed. When you first notice signs of an outbreak you can start cold sore treatments such as antiviral creams or tablets. In some people, sunlight can trigger it, if this is the case for you then you might find it helpful to wear a lip balm with SPF.
What if I keep getting cold sores?
If you are experiencing cold sore outbreaks frequently, your private GP may prescribe you a cold sore suppression treatment. This will usually involve taking a cold sore medicine such as Aciclovir on a regular basis for several months to reduce the likelihood of you developing a new cold sore.
Published: December 2018
Review: December 2021