What are cold sores and how to manage them

What are cold sores and how to manage them

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are a common type of viral infection. Tiny blisters, often grouped in patches, can form around the lip area. Once the blisters burst, they leave a mark that takes time to heal. Cold sores are caused by infections and spread through kissing and other oral activities. The condition can be minor, and while it has no proper cure, you can manage the outbreaks with treatments.

Symptoms
Here are some symptoms which indicate that you are suffering from cold sores:

Blisters
Small fluid blisters form around your lips, as mentioned above. Sometimes you will see eruptions around your nose, cheeks, and inside of your mouth.

Tingling and itching
A small and hard patch can appear around your lips. This patch might cause a tingling and itching sensation, it can also be painful while eating, brushing your teeth, etc.

Crusting
The small blisters merge together and then burst. They leave shallow open pores that form a crust layer on your face.

These signs and symptoms vary from person to person. When you have a cold sore for the first time, you might start seeing symptoms 20 days after you were first exposed to the virus. These blisters might take around two weeks to heal completely. Other symptoms include fever, sore throat, painful gums, muscle aches, headache, and swollen lymph nodes.

Causes
Cold sores are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus. The two types of this virus that causes cold sores are herpes simplex virus type 1 or HSV-1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 or HSV-2. Herpes is considered a long-term virus that is never fully cured. It can reoccur many times throughout your life. There are some triggers that can cause these cold sores to flare up every now and then. These can be stress, fatigue, illness, hormonal changes, certain foods, infections, dental surgeries, allergic reactions, and excessive sun exposure.

Cold sores can spread on your face or genitals because of close contact activities such as kissing and oral sex. They can also spread by sharing utensils, towels, and razors. When the blisters are active, cold sores become contagious because the virus spreads easily when it comes in contact with infected body fluids.

When should you go to the health practitioner?
Cold sores might clear up without any treatment. In the worst cases, you might have to get in touch with your health practitioner. Here are some instances when you should get in touch with your doctor-

When the symptoms are severe.
When you have a weak immune system.
When cold sores don’t heal within two weeks.
When you experience irritation in your eyes too.
When the cold sores reoccur frequently.

How can you tell if you have a cold sore?
Cold sores occur in clusters. When you spot a cluster of small sores around your lips or inside your mouth, this might be the first sign that you are suffering from a cold sore. The doctor is best suited to give you an accurate diagnosis, so it is best to consult a professional if you have any doubts. The doctor might take out the fluid from the infected area and run a test on the same to check the severity of the condition.

How can you get rid of cold sores?
Herpes is a chronic virus that has no complete cure. That said, cold sores go away eventually. Here are some steps that you can follow to speed up your recovery process-

Take the suggested treatment options
You can take antiviral treatments to soothe your cold sores. You can even apply antiviral creams to speed up your recovery.

Stay away from the sun
It is said that continuous exposure to the sun can aggravate skin problems. So, try to keep the area protected from the sun, wear sunscreen, or try to stay out of the sun completely.

Take a pain treatment
In case your cold sores are very painful, you should talk to your doctor, who can suggest some treatment options for pain.

Use ice or lip balm to soothe your skin
You can even try ice packs and lip balms that can make the cold sores go away quickly. If you feel this step is causing any form of discomfort, stop the same immediately.

Note that these liquid-filled blisters are very common and can affect the day-to-day routine of people. It can be embarrassing and might cause you to feel self-conscious. But don’t give up hope and get in touch with your doctor, who can suggest some steps for your speedy recovery. If you have dealt with the condition before, take the required precautionary methods and start the antiviral treatments after consulting a healthcare professional.

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