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Cold sores: contagion, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The cold sore is a highly contagious infection caused by the so – called virus of the herpes simplex type I which causes the appearance of a small, painful and suppurating blisters on the lips (fever), which are drawing with the passage of time to become scab over and heal. After the first infection, the virus remains inactive in the main nerves of the face, but it can be reactivated due to some circumstances and that is when these fever blisters appear. Its activation can be motivated by certain factors such as a drop in defenses, stress, hormonal changes, having a fever or exposure to extreme weather conditions. At FastlyHealwe explain in more detail how tocold sore contagion, symptoms and treatment

Cold sore contagion

The cold sores or oral is caused, as indicated by herpes simplex virus type 1 and there are two possible routes of infection through droplet infection or contact infection among people.

Generally, this virus is transmitted when contact is made with the infected person through saliva or lips. That is why it is so important not to touch the blisters or injuries of the affected person, to avoid kisses, as well as to share personal hygiene items or objects (towels, glasses, cutlery, bedding, lipsticks, razor blades, etc. ) that may come into contact with cold sores.

It is convenient to take into account that in a large majority of cases, the herpes simplex virus infection is contracted from childhood (usually between 3 and 5 years of age), since at that stage contact with oral secretions between, for example mother and child, siblings or playmates is very common.

There is a risk that sexual contact leads to the spread of cold sores, because through the practice of oral sex the virus can be transmitted to the genital area and vice versa. This is why it is not advisable to have oral-genital contact while the virus is active and precautions should be taken in terms of protection during sexual intercourse.

However, contagion can not only occur during a cold sore attack, since it is possible that the virus remains in the oral cavity of the affected patient and transmission takes place even when there are no wounds or cold sores.

In addition to being a highly contagious infection, there is also the possibility that it spreads to other parts of the body or areas of the skin. Therefore, it is not advisable to touch the wounds or injuries constantly or try to burst them, since they should heal on their own. It is very important to wash your hands before and after applying any type of cold sore treatment.

Cold sore symptoms

When a person is infected with the herpes simplex virus, it remains in the main nerves of the face for life. However, many infected patients never develop a cold sore and have symptoms. On the contrary, in those who do suffer, the symptoms can vary in severity in each case and, generally, they usually appear 1 to 3 weeks after having contracted the virus.

Next, we detail the different phases and symptoms of cold sores:

  1. Tingling Phase: itching, burning, tightness and / or tingling on the lips or on the skin around the mouth. These are the first symptoms and can last from a few hours to about two days.
  2. Swelling Phase: the area where the cold sore will be visible swells and becomes slightly red.
  3. Blisters Phase: formation of a red welt or papule that progressively leads to a blister or blisters that are grouped in a cluster and contain fluid inside.
  4. Exudate phase: the blisters break, forming a purulent plaque. This is the most contagious and annoying phase.
  5. Scab Phase: the wounds or blisters dry up and a kind of brown crust begins to form, in the same way that occurs with other open lesions. Little by little the damaged skin will regenerate and the wound will close.
  6. Healing Phase: the scab comes off, the wound heals and the cold sore heals completely.

In addition to these symptoms, cold sore patients may also have:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes.
  • Fever.
  • Sore throat and discomfort when swallowing.

The symptoms of cold sores usually disappear on their own within one or two weeks, but it is important to pay attention to them and see a doctor urgently if they are very serious or do not disappear after two weeks, if blisters or lesions appear near the eyes or if you have a weakened immune system as a result of suffering from certain diseases or taking certain medications.

Cold sore treatment

In the event that the skin or mucous membranes are not severely affected, a cold sore may heal on its own within a few days. However, in some cases it is necessary to treat the infection and alleviate its symptoms with some medications called antivirals , which must be prescribed by the doctor. They are normally used in the form of an ointment and work by fighting the virus that causes the infection, reducing pain and accelerating the healing of herpes. Only in the event that in addition to the viral infection, a bacterial infection appears, will a specific treatment with antibiotic medication and disinfectant be required at the local level.

On the other hand, there are some special plasters or patches available in the pharmacy that are placed on the herpes and that help to calm the symptoms more quickly. These are transparent so they are not visible and hardly noticeable.

In addition to these treatments, certain natural solutions and / or hygiene measures that are carried out on a day-to-day basis can help heal cold sores more quickly and improve the well-being of the affected person. The recommendations to take into account are the following:

  • Apply a lip balm or cream with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc or revesratrol to the lesion.
  • Wash the blisters with water and an antiseptic soap gently to prevent the infection from spreading to other areas.
  • Put some ice wrapped in a cloth on the affected area to reduce swelling.
  • Do not touch the lesions frequently and in the case of having to palpate them, wash your hands very well before and after doing so.
  • Do not share personal hygiene items or towels with other people and wash everything well and even change the sheets once the herpes has disappeared.
  • Avoid consuming very hot drinks, spicy, salty or citrus foods, as they could aggravate the discomfort.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Cold sores: contagion, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Teeth and mouth category .

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