Cold sores are a type of viral infection that can lead to small and painful blisters. The blisters are filled with fluid and usually occur on your lips, mouth or nose. They are commonly called as the fluid blisters and heal within 4 weeks without leaving any scars behind. Cold sores can never be completely cured by the body’s defense mechanism, that is the reason they can occur for multiple times. It is caused by the HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus). It damages your skin and leaves the sore as it multiplies in number. Most of us who faced the problem cold sores wonder why many people do not get it. The gene makeup in every person it different, so the reason might be that the HSV virus is acting differently in each person. There can be a variety of reasons why you are facing a cold sore in your mouth. Keep reading the rest of the article to find out.
Cold Sore vs Canker Sore
Many people mistake cold sores for cankers sore as they look alike. They are not the same as they have a difference in what causes them. While cold sores can occur around your lips, mouth, nose and other areas of your face, canker sores are found only inside your mouth like on the gums, palate, under the tongue, and inside the cheeks. The people with a newly occurring cold sore can be prone to fever, sore throat, pain while swallowing, body pains, nausea, headache, burning sensation around the affected area and swollen lymph nodes. Whereas, canker sores only give a burning or tingling sensation before their occurrence.
Cold sores and canker sores can be easily differentiated if observed carefully. Cold sores are painful, fluid-filled blisters that can be recovered with a couple of weeks. Canker sore may look oval or round in shape with varying sizes. They may be small or big yellow colored sores with a red border which typically takes longer while to heal. Cold sores are often contagious and spread by kissing or getting in close contact with the affected area of the person. They can also be caused due to the flu, cold or fatigue. When it comes to canker sores, there are no specific causes but it can be triggered by an injury to the mouth, using oral hygiene products containing SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), B12, iron or folate deficiency, stress, hormonal fluctuation during periods, etc.
Are cold sores contagious?
Yes! Cold sores are contagious. They can spread by physical means like kissing, sharing utensils or staying close to the person affected with the cold sore. The virus finds a way to get into your skin by shedding the layers of your skin and causing painful blisters. Contact with the saliva of HSV infected person is also the reason for a cold sore. Though the cold sore is not present and the person has an HSV virus in them, the virus can be transmitted and cause cold sore in another person. Many people also think that the virus may be passed on from towels and clothes, but it is a myth. The chances of transmission of the virus are highest when there are active blisters around your mouth. If the blisters are dry then there are lesser chances of the virus passing on to another person.
Stages and Treatment –
The stages of a cold sore caused by the herpes virus occur in 5 typical stages given below.
- Tingling – It is the first sign that develops on the surface of the skin. It may also cause an itchy or burning sensation. Oral medication is prescribed in this stage like acyclovir (Zovirax), penciclovir (Denavir) and docosanol (Abreva) which is an over the counter medicine.
- Blistering – a couple of days after you experience the tingling sensation, a fluid-filled blisters may appear in that area along with redness around the blister. Stay hydrated and wash your hands frequently for better hygiene until the blisters disappear. Avoid foods that are spicy, salty and hot. Stay away from citrus fruits.
- Weeping – This is the stage where the cold sore breaks open. As they are most contagious in this phase try not to get in close contact with anyone.do not pick the sores as it might lead to a bacterial infection. Ease your pain with a pain reliever or use a cold compress.
- Crusting – The blisters in crusting phase turn into yellow or brown from the red color. Do not aggravate the crusted blisters and use zinc oxide ointments in this stage. Cold or warm compresses can also help you in healing.
- Healing – This is the final stage where crusted blisters heal and irritation is reduced. The scab will disappear slowly without leaving any scars behind.
Home Remedies – Using aloe vera gel helps in soothing the cold sore. Use a good quality lip balm, lemon tea or lemon tea compress. Mint and vitamin E oil are also beneficial in getting rid of a cold sore. You can also prevent cold sores from occurring by avoiding sunburns. Use a sunscreen with 50+ SPF while you go out in the sun.