A cold sore, or a fever blister as it is occasionally known, is a common viral infection. The small, fluid-filled blisters on and around your lips often occur in small patches. A cold sore spreads from person to person via contact, such as kissing. The cold sore is the product of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and is contagious even if you can’t see a lesion.
The symptoms that accompany a cold sore will vary depending on whether this is your first outbreak or a recurrence. Cold sores last several days, and it can take several weeks for the blisters that accompany cold sores to heal completely. A recurrence will usually appear at the same spot as the initial but will be less severe than its predecessor. Signs may include:
The HSV-1 virus causes a cold sore. A cold sore may reoccur via a viral infection, hormonal changes, stress, fatigue, exposure to the elements, and changes in the immune system.
Cold sores develop in five stages and typically last between 9 and 12 days. The five phases include:
There are safeguards you can take to prevent a cold sore from spreading to other people or other parts of your body. These measures include:
A cold sore will typically resolve itself in 1 to 2 weeks without medical treatment. However, some medications can help to alleviate the pain that accompanies a cold sore. Over-the-counter cold sore antiviral creams can help to shorten the duration of the recurrent infection. Oral antiviral medications can shorten the duration and even stop a cold sore outbreak if taken when symptoms first appear. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and Tylenol can alleviate the pain of a cold sore.