Cold sores or fever blisters also cold facial herpes or herpes labialis are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
Once infected with the herpes virus, it stays in your body forever. Cold sores are passed on through saliva or skin-to-skin contact such as hugging and kissing. The virus typically reappears and can cause an outbreak when people have a lowered immune system, are stressed or exposed to too much sunlight. Cold sores are also common around the time of menstrual periods. If you have a cold sore, you are contagious. Touching the blisters with your fingers may cause the virus to spread.
People infected with HSV-1 for the first time may have fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. They may have painful swelling and open sores in the mouth. Some people have a sore throat. These symptoms usually begin about a week after someone is exposed to HSV-1.
The border of the lip is the most common place that these sores appear. They may occasionally occur inside the mouth, too. This is more likely in people who have weakened immune systems or other medical problems.
The diagnosis of cold sores is usually based on the appearance of the lesions.
People with cold sores should wash their hands often, especially after touching the face. Cups and eating utensils should not be shared with another person.
One of the most important triggers of cold sores is exposure to sunlight. If this is the case with you, try using a sun-block on your lips and other areas potentially affected by cold sores to prevent over-exposure to the sun.
Some medicines can help cold sores heal faster. They also relieve pain and discomfort. The medicines are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These drugs cannot get rid of the virus. You need to take them each time you can feel a cold sore coming on. Once you have blisters on your lip, the medicines will not help much.
Cold sores are common and usually are not dangerous. If you have a weakened immune system (because of a disease, or because of medicines you take), HSV-1 can cause a serious illness just call your dentist to be advised.
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