Oral health / 23 Dec, 2019

Cold sores

Dr Goh Lit Ching

What are cold sores?

Cold sores affect a large proportion of the population. It usually presents as small blisters around the mouth and lips. Cold sores can be caused by two strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2), although herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the more common cause.

Symptoms of cold sores

A cold sore is likely to appear four to six days after contracting the virus, but sometimes it may take up to two weeks for symptoms to occur.

  • Early (prodrome) stage – tingling, burning or itching sensation
  • Natural course – a blister or a cluster of blisters, which eventually burst leaving a raw area
  • Healing stage – usually heal without leaving a scar, typically within seven to 10 days

How did I get it?

Cold sores most commonly develop following direct skin contact with the affected area. Recurrent outbreaks are likely to occur, although severity and frequency of symptoms can vary greatly between each episode.

Treatment

Cold sores can be self-limiting, but it’s best to consult your GP regarding antiviral cream and tablets to assist in treatment. Antiviral treatment taken at the early prodrome stage of symptoms may also help with preventing a full outbreak of cold sores.

Prevention

Most people carry the virus, although some will never experience obvious symptoms. Prevention is difficult however avoiding triggering factors such as stress, illness, alcohol and UV light may help to reduce episodes in the future.

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