What is it?
Cold sores are small blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth. They are caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus and usually clear up without treatment within 7 to 10 days. You may not have any symptoms when you first become infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1. An outbreak of cold sores may happen some time later. Cold sores often start with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth. Small fluid-filled sores then appear, usually on the edges of the lower lip. You’re at risk of getting a cold sore if you come in contact with the fluid of a cold sore through kissing, sharing foods or drinks, or sharing personal care items such as toothbrushes and razors. If you come in contact with the saliva of someone who has the virus, you can get the virus, even if there are no visible blisters.
What are the symptoms?
Any one or more of the following symptom occur during the outbreak:
- Muscle aches.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
A cold sore goes through five stages:
- Tingling and itching occurs about 24 hours before blisters erupt.
- Fluid-filled blisters appear.
- The blisters burst, ooze, and form painful sores.
- The sores dry out and scab over causing itching and cracking.
- The scab falls off and the cold sore heals.
What to expect?
You can try the following things:
- Over-the-counter antiviral creams may help lessen the tingling and duration of the cold sores.
- Painkillers might help in relieving pain.
- Povidone-iodine ointments (commonly known as Betadine) can be dabbed onto the cold sores and may reduce symptoms.
- Ice helps reduce the swelling, redness, and pain caused by a cold sore. Wrap an ice cube in a clean washcloth and place it over your cold sore for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this every three to four hours.
- Sunscreen not only protects your lips while the cold sore is healing, but it can also reduce future outbreaks when worn daily on the lips. Use Sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and apply it whenever you expect to be in the sun.
- Aloe vera gel is widely available. Applying it topically can aid in soothing the skin when a cold sore breaks out. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful.
Contact your GP if your symptoms are severe or persistent. You should also consult with your GP if you are pregnant our you have a weakened immune system. Newborn babies with the condition should be seen by the GP.