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Cold Sores


Disease: Cold Sores Cold Sores
Category: Infectious diseases
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Disease Definition:

Cold sores are a common condition. A cold sore starts with a tingling feeling on the lip and a small, hard spot that isn’t seen. After a day
or two; red blisters appear on the lip. Cold sores are also known as fever blisters are quite different from canker sores, a condition
people occasionally relate to cold sores. Although cold sores aren’t curable or preventable, it is possible to reduce their
frequency and occurrence duration.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Cold sore symptoms include:.


  • Pain or tingling, called the prodrome, usually precedes the blisters by one to two days
  • Usual duration of 7 to 10 days
  • Small, painful, fluid-filled blisters on a raised, red area of the skin, commonly around the mouth

Cold sores mostly appear on the lips. Sometimes, they may take place on the nostrils, fingers or chin. Even though it’s uncommon,
they might take place inside the mouth, more frequently on the gums or hard palate (the roof of the mouth). Sores appearing on
other soft tissues inside the mouth, like the inside of the cheek or the undersurface of the tongue, might be canker sores but
often aren’t cold sores.
Signs and symptoms might not begin for as long as 20 days after exposure to the herpes simplex virus, and often last seven to 10 days. The blisters form, break and ooze. Later on, a yellow crust forms and eventually sloughs off to uncover pinkish skin healing without a scar.


Cold sores are caused by certain strains of the herpes virus. Herpes simplex virus type 1 often causes cold sores. Herpes simplex virus type 2 is often responsible for genital herpes. However, either type of the virus could cause sores in the facial area or on the genitals. The first episode of herpes infection can be taken from another person who has an active lesion. This infection might spread with shared eating utensils, razors or towels. Once someone has an episode of herpes infection, the virus lies asleep in the nerve cells in the person’s skin and might emerge again as an active infection at or near the original site. An itch or heightened sensitivity might be experienced at the site preceding each attack. Menstruation, fever, stress and exposure to the sun might trigger a recurrence.

Cold sores and canker sores

Cold sores differ from canker sores that people occasionally link to cold sores. The reactivation of the herpes simplex virus, results in cold sores, which are contagious. On the other hand, canker sores  are not contagious, they are ulcers that take place in the soft tissues inside the mouth, places where cold sores don’t commonly take place.



Cold sores can pass from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact, indicating that this condition is contagious. The greatest risk of infection is from the moment the blisters appear until they have completely dried and crusted over. However, there is a possibility of spreading the virus for some time even after the skin has healed.
When having a cold sore, the affected person should avoid close contact with infants.
People who are at an increased risk of more severe infection include anyone who has eczema (atopic dermatitis) or people with a suppressed immune system, like cancer patient, AIDS patients or an organ transplantation subjects.
Herpes simplex infection of the eye results in scarring of the cornea and is a contributing cause to blindness.


In general, cold sores go away without treatment within 7 to 10 days. Topical symptomatic treatments like topical lidocaine or benzyl alcohol (Zilactin) might help relieve symptoms.

The use of an antiviral medication might modestly shorten the time it takes for cold sores to cure and reduce the pain, if began very early.

In the case of experiencing bouts very often, the doctor might prescribe an antiviral drug as a cold sore treatment or to stop cold sores.


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