Cold sores have been bothersome to many from a young age, causing a great deal of discomfort. For others, they recur every so often and disrupt our daily lives. In this article, readers will get to know what cold sores are and what causes them. We’ll also discuss how they transmit from one individual to the other. Furthermore, we’ll give insight into the symptoms and various cold sore treatments.
What are cold sores?
Cold sores are a group of small painful blisters or lesions that are caused by a virus known as the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
The HSV virus has two strains, HSV-1 and HSV-2. These fever blisters are a common viral infection and are contagious.
How the HSV virus is transmitted
Due to its high level of contagiousness, many contract the virus in early childhood, with most contracting it by the age of five. The virus transmits from one individual to the other in several ways in close contact. Some of these include:-
- Shared razors
- Shared towels
- Shared eating utensils
It is important to note that the HSV virus also causes sores on one’s genitals. This is because during oral sex, the virus transmits from one individual to the other. The HSV-2 of the virus usually causes genital herpes, while HSV-1 causes cold sores.
What triggers an outbreak of cold sores
The cold sores often affect areas around the lips, cheeks, and chin. Once the blister breaks, a scab forms that could last for several days. They usually heal in about a week without treatment with no indication of a scar. The body can suppress the virus through its immune system; however, cold sores do not have a cure. The virus remains in the body and is inactive for most of the time but occasionally reactivates to form cold sores. The following are triggers of the outbreak of the cold sore:-
- Change in hormone levels
- A weak immune system
- Exposure to the sun
- Exposure to cold
- Cosmetic surgery
- Dental works
Development stages of cold sores
Cold sores develop in stages after infection. It includes the following:-
- You experience a burning, itching, or tingling sensation around the lips
- After a day or two, painful sores filled with fluid appear around the mouth. They are red and swollen.
- The sores break, and the fluid departs from the blister. This stage takes a period of about three days with shallow open sores.
- A scab forms over the sores causing them to crack or bleed.
- The scab falls off, and the skin heals in about three days.
Symptoms of cold sores
Symptoms can often be more severe following a primary infection, causing:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
- Headache and sinus pain
- Stomach upset
It is important to note that some individuals are carriers of the virus without showcasing any symptoms.
Cold sore treatment
As mentioned earlier, cold sores do not have a cure. However, there are various ways to reduce the pain and discomfort that they cause. It may even decrease the period of an outbreak. The following are some cold sore treatments:-
- Apply lemon lip balm to ensure that the moisture is maintained around the sores. It also protects from sun exposure.
- You can apply peppermint or witch hazel oil to ease the irritation around your skin with the cold sores
- Dab a bit of aloe vera gel on the cold sores to ease discomfort and hasten the healing process
- Vitamin E and Vitamin C supplements assist in speeding up the healing process.
- Topical licorice root cream assists in the healing of cold sores