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MEDcare Minute

What to Know About Cold Sores

Around 50 percent of people in the U.S. carry the virus that causes them to experience a cold sore at least once in their lifetime. But what exactly are cold sores and where do they come from?  Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear around the lips and mouth. These tiny blisters usually develop on the lips or directly around the mouth either by themselves or in a cluster.  Cold sores can cause pain, a burning sensation or itching in the affected area before they burst and form a scab.


Causes of Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by a herpes simplex virus type 1 which enters the body by saliva or body secretions.  Some only experience a single outbreak, others have two or three a year, and still, some carry the virus and never experience an outbreak.


Length That Cold Sores Are Contagious

Despite what most people believe, cold sores remain contagious for two weeks after they first appear. Not simply once they’ve scabbed over.  Since the virus stays in the body forever it is possible to always transmit to others even without an active outbreak.



While there are homeopathic remedies to help the symptoms, the quickest way to heal a cold sore is to see a care provider to prescribe antiviral medication, either in the pill or cream form.


How to Prevent Cold Sores

  • Avoid close physical contact—such as kissing—with someone who has a cold sore
  • Do not share items like eating utensils, straws, or cosmetics.
  • If you have a cold sore, do not touch it because the liquid can spread the virus.
  • Follow correct handwashing techniques.


It may good idea to see medical provider if you have a weakened immune system, if your cold sore does not go away within two weeks or if the irritation spreads to the eyes.


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