Cold sores or fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus. These are highly contagious and oftentimes mistaken for canker sores which are non-contagious mouth ulcers. Cold sores usually develop on the skin near to the mouth, mostly on the lips, and can also develop on the chin, fingers, nostrils and the genitals.
Symptoms of colds sores have several stages
- The affected person will experience an itching, tingling or burning sensation that can be felt around the lips before a small, hard painful spot develops and blisters manifest.
- Small blisters that are filled with fluid will develop along the border where the outside edge of the lips meets the skin of the face. They can also manifest around the nose or on the cheeks.
- The small blisters will join together and then burst, leaving open sores where fluids ooze out and then crust over.
- The blisters can last for two to four weeks until they are fully healed. Recurrences are likely to develop at the same spot and are less severe than the first outbreak.
Symptoms of the first outbreak
- Painful eroded gums
- Fever and headaches
- Sore throat
- Swelling lymph nodes
- Muscles pain
Children with ages less than 5 years old develop cold sores inside the mouths and the lesions are mistaken for canker sores which affect only the mucous membrane and are not caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Severe symptoms of cold sores
- Suffering from a weak immune system due to an underlying health condition.
- The symptoms become severe and recur frequently.
- The cold sores become persistent and linger for more than two weeks that is left untreated.
- Irritation in the eyes
Causes of cold sores
- A strain of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) HSV-1 usually causes cold sores, HSV-2 a virus that cause genital herpes, but any of this type can cause sores in the face or in the genital area.
- Sharing of eating utensils, razors and towels and also kissing
Treatment and home remedies for cold sores
- Apply a cool compress on the affected area or a cool damp cloth to help minimize the redness, eliminate crusting and promote fast healing of the area. Another option is to rub ice on the affected skin for a few minutes every hour.
- Apply a prescribed over-the-counter cold sore ointment and must be applied frequently to help minimize the outbreak.
- Apply protection on the lips from the sun by using lip balms and creams that contains zinc oxide. Apply moisturizing cream on the lips to prevent the lips from becoming dry.
- Press a warm tea bag on the blisters at least for 30 minutes since this helps in relieving the pain.