They are not caused by a common cold, despite their name!
Cold sores are common and generally heal on their own in 10 days, but they are contagious and can be annoying or painful during the healing process. However, there are a few tips you may do to help alleviate the pain.
The initial symptoms are usually similar to those of other viral infections such as fever, tiredness, and multiple sores in the mouth and gums.
- Cold sores begin with tingling, itching, or a burning sensation.
- Small blisters filled with fluid appear.
- Pimples can occur on any part of the face.
- The blisters erupt and turn into a crust.
The most common cause of cold sores is herpes simplex virus type 1. The virus is most commonly transmitted in infancy, such as when a family member or friend who has a cold sore kisses a kid.
The virus enters the body through the skin and travels into the nerves, where it remains dormant until it is triggered.
Factors that may trigger an outbreak or activation of cold sores include:
- Having another infection, such as a respiratory infection
- High temperature (fever).
- Emotional distress or stress
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Menstruation (periods)
- Strong sunlight
- Infection with herpes simplex virus type 2, but this rarely happens
In many cases, there is no clear cause for the outbreak.
How long are cold sores contagious?
Cold sores are contagious from the start until the cold sore is completely healed.
Treatment of cold sores
The pharmacist can recommend the following:
- Creams to relieve pain and irritation
- Antiviral creams to speed up recovery time
If you suffer from persistent cold sores, use antiviral creams as soon as you feel stinging.
Tips that may help you
- Eating cold and soft foods.
- Before and after applying the cream, wash your hands with soap and water.
- Use a lip balm with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher when going outside.
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain and swelling.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Do not kiss anyone if you have a cold sore because kissing a kid while suffering from a cold sore can result in neonatal herpes, which is extremely dangerous for newborns.
- Avoid sharing personal items or tools that have come in contact with a cold sore (such as cold sore creams, towels, cutlery, or lipstick).
Don’t eat acidic or salty foods if they aggravate your cold sore.