Irritating, ugly and painful – a cold sore is no minor ailment. A cold sore is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 that, once it moves into your system, never moves out. Even after the first outbreak clears up, the virus remains dormant in your system until something triggers another outbreak.
How did you get the virus? Most likely, you caught the virus from someone who had active sores. Cold sores are extremely contagious and can be passed easily from a kiss, a cup or even contact sports.
The first symptom is usually a tingling sensation near or on an are of the lip. You may have a fever, headache or feel irritable. Then, in a couple of days, the tiny, painful, fluid-filled blisters pop up. These blisters will break and weep fluid. It is during this time that the outbreak is most contagious. To minimize the spread, keep your toothbrush, eating utensils and anything that comes in contact with your face isolated from other people. If you are in the weeping sore stage, we’ll need to delay dental treatment.
After breaking, the blisters form an outer crust similar to a scab. The crusts will slough off and form a smaller crust until the spots have completely healed, which is usually 10–14 days, with or without treatment. There is no cure, but over-the-counter medications can help relieve the pain and might shorten the duration of the episode.
If you are experiencing frequent or especially painful cold sore symptoms, make an appointment. We need to examine you when you have a cold sore outbreak so that we can rule out other more serious conditions.