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What You Need to KnowCold sores are proof that life can be unfair: Some people get them, others don't.
Labial herpes: A small sore situated on the face or in the mouth that causes pain, burning, or itching before bursting and crusting over. Besides being itchy and painful, cold sores (also called fever blisters) make you feel self-conscious. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health.
Less frequented sites are the gums or roof of the mouth (the palate). Labial herpes is also called fever blisters or cold sores.
Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. The virus lies latent (dormant) in the body and is reawakened (reactivated) by factors such as stress, sunburn, or fever from a wide range of infectious diseases including colds. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), passed on through contact with infected skin or body fluids. Sunscreen (SPF 15 or more) on the lips prevents recurrences of herpes from sunburn. The virus is highly contagious when fever blisters are present. Children become infected by contact with someone who has a fever blister and then they spread the virus by rubbing their cold sore and touching other children.
A person with fever blisters should be careful not to touch the blisters and spread the virus to new sites, such as the eyes or genitals. There is no cure for fever blisters.
Medications that can relieve some of the pain and discomfort include ointments that numb the blisters, antibiotics that control secondary bacterial infections, and ointments that soften the crests of the sores.


Who Gets Cold Sores and WhyMore than half of us have been infected with the HSV-1 virus, usually from well-meaning kisses from relatives or romantic partners. Acyclovir, an antiviral drug, prevents the herpes simplex virus from multiplying and, in pill form, has been reported to reduce the symptoms and frequency of recurrence. In ancient Rome, an epidemic of fever blisters prompted Emperor Tiberius to ban kissing in public ceremonies.
Many people have familiar triggers that tend to bring HSV-1 out of seclusion, causing cold sores.
Some people get cold sores twice a year; for others, it's a frustrating, stressful, monthly ritual.
Canker Sores Aren't the SameCold sores usually appear on the lip; canker sores affect the inside of the mouth.
When You're ContagiousA cold sore is caused by skin damage as the herpes virus reproduces inside infected cells. Cold sores are most contagious when blisters are present and just after they break open, until the skin is completely healed and looks normal again. But some people can transmit the virus through their saliva at any time, even if they never get cold sores.
The cold sore virus is usually present on an infected person's lip, even if there's no obvious sore.
Because HSV-1 can also live in saliva, sharing kitchen utensils or drinking glasses can also spread it. Easing Cold Sore PainWhile the first outbreak can last up to 2 weeks, recurrent outbreaks usually last about 1 week.
There is no cure for cold sores, but some over-the-counter creams and gels can help with burning and pain.


Antiviral CreamsAntiviral creams can reduce the time it takes a cold sore to heal if applied at the first sign of a cold sore.
Prescription Cold Sore MedicationsOral antiviral prescription medications can also reduce the amount of healing time when taken at the first sign of a cold sore -- red or itchy skin, for example. Another one, a single-dose acyclovir tablet (Sitavig), is put directly on your gums and releases medicine as it dissolves. They are not as common, but cold sores can appear anywhere on the face, including on the cheek, chin, or nose. Can You Spread It on Your Body?It's possible, though rare, to spread the cold sore virus from one part of the body to another. It can happen by touching a cold sore, then touching an area of broken skin or a mucous membrane, the moist protective lining of skin found in areas like the eyes or vagina. You can prevent this self-spread -- or autoinoculation -- by washing your hands and not touching the cold sore. When Herpes Infects the EyeOther areas the cold sore virus can infect are the finger (herpetic whitlow) and the eye (ocular herpes). When kids get herpetic whitlow, it's usually because they've spread the virus from a cold sore by finger- or thumb-sucking.
Preventing OutbreaksIt can be tough to prevent cold sores, but reducing your triggers can help.



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