sores — also called fever blisters — are a common viral
infection. They are tiny, fluid-filled blisters on and around
your lips. These blisters are often grouped together in
patches. After the blisters break, a crust forms over the
resulting sore. Cold sores usually heal in two to four weeks
without leaving a scar.
sores spread from person to person by close contact, such as
kissing. They’re caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)
closely related to the one that causes genital herpes (HSV-2).
Both of these viruses can affect your mouth or genitals and
can be spread by oral sex. Cold sores are contagious even if
you don’t see the sores. Cold sores are most contagious when
oozing blisters are present. But you can transmit the virus to
others even if you don’t have blisters. Shared eating
utensils, razors and towels, as well as kissing, may spread
HSV-1. Oral sex can spread HSV-1 to the genitals and HSV-2 to
had an episode of herpes infection, the virus lies dormant in
nerve cells in your skin and may emerge as another cold sore
at the same place as before. Recurrence may be triggered by:
Viral infection or fever
Hormonal changes, such as those related to menstruation
Exposure to sunlight and wind
Changes in the immune system
no cure for HSV infection, and the blisters may return.
Antiviral medications can help cold sores heal more quickly
and may reduce how often they return.
the discomfort of a cold sore, try these tips:
Apply a cold sore ointment. Docosanol (Abreva) is an
over-the-counter cream for cold sores. It must be applied
frequently and may shorten an outbreak by a few hours or a
other cold sore remedies. Some over-the-counter preparations
contain a drying agent, such as alcohol, that may speed
lip balms and cream. Protect your lips from the sun with a
zinc oxide cream or lip balm with sunblock. If your lips
become dry, apply a moisturizing cream.
Apply a cool compress. A cool, damp cloth may reduce redness,
help remove crusting and promote healing.
Apply pain-relieving creams. Over-the-counter creams with
lidocaine or benzocaine may offer some pain relief.