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.
Signs And Symptoms
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:
Swollen lymph nodes
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.
The Stages Of A Cold Sore
Cold sores develop in five stages and typically last between 9 and 12 days. The five phases include:
Stage one. You will feel tingling, itching, or burning sensations under the skin around the mouth or base of the nose. This stage is the prodrome stage, and you may also experience malaise, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Healthcare professionals recommend beginning treatment at this stage.
Stage two. If you do not use medication, you will develop a fluid-filled blister a few days after your initial symptoms.
Stage three. Around day four, the blister will open and release the fluid. This period is known as the weeping stage, the most painful time during the process.
Stage four. Sometime between days five and eight, the sore will dry up and leave a crust.
Stage five. The last phase of a cold sore is known as the healing stage, and new scabs may form and flake off during this time.
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:
Avoid skin-to-skin contact with others. HSV-1 spreads through moist secretions from the blisters.
Avoid sharing items. The virus spreads through the sharing of utensils, towels, and lip balm if blisters are present.
Wash your hands. It will help if you always wash your hands, but it is crucial with cold sores. Always wash your hands before you touch yourself and other people.
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.