Cold Sore

What are Cold Sores?

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear on the lips, mouth, or nose. They often start as red, swollen, tender areas and can be painful and itchy. Cold sores typically last for about a week or two. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). They are most contagious when the blisters burst and release the fluid.

Symptoms of Cold Sores

The most common symptoms of cold sores include:

  • Painful, itchy blisters on the skin
  • Red, swollen skin around the sore
  • Cracking or bleeding of the skin
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands

Causes of Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). This virus is contagious and can be spread through direct contact or exchange of saliva. HSV-1 is very common, and many people are exposed to it through childhood. However, not everyone who is exposed to it will get cold sores.

Treatment for Cold Sores

Cold sores typically heal on their own within a few days or weeks. Treatment may help reduce symptoms and help the sores heal faster.

  • Cold compress: Ice or cold compresses can be applied to the sore to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications: OTC medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Topical medications: Creams and ointments containing hydrocortisone, zinc oxide, or lidocaine can help reduce itching and pain.
  • Prescription medications: Oral antiviral medications or shots may be prescribed to help fight the virus and reduce the duration of the cold sore.
  • Sunscreen: Applying sunscreen to the lips can help protect them from further damage from the sun.