Uh oh. You are here because you are either feeling that familiar tingling on your lip right now, or know it all too well. In a day or so, the red blister will appear and the burning, pain, and itching will begin in earnest.
Yes, it is embarrassing. But, you are not alone (11% of the population suffers from ordinary cold sores along with you)1.
• What is a cold sore?
• What causes cold sores?
• What triggers cold sores?
• How long does a cold sore last?
• How can I prevent cold sores from occurring?
• What can I do if I have a cold sore?
What is a cold sore?
Cold sores, or oral labial herpes, are blisters that occur on the lips or mouth area and may be painful and unsightly.
What causes cold sores?
Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus - Type 1. Most people get HSV-1 during infancy or childhood from a family member or friend. It can be transmitted by kissing or sharing eating utensils or towels. More than 57%2 of the population carries the virus, but only 11% (34 million Americans)1 suffer from recurrent cold sores.
What triggers cold sores?
There are many things that can trigger cold sores in different people:
- Stress weakens the immune system which can cause cold sores to develop.
- Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can damage skin which can cause cold sores to develop.
- Exposure to Cold/Chapped Lips can dry out lips which can cause cold sores.
- Fever, Cold, or Flu weakens the immune system which can cause cold sores to develop.
- Fatigue weakens the immune system which can cause cold sores to develop.
- Trauma, caused by dentist or other injury, to mouth can cause cold sores to develop.
- Hormonal changes, due to menstruation or pregnancy, weaken the body's immune system which can cause cold sores to develop.
How long does a cold sore last?
Usually cold sores last from 8 to 12 days, but they can last even longer in some cases. Treating cold sores early helps shorten the duration.
The typical path of a cold sore is:
- Prodrome Phase: sufferers feel tingling, itching, burning, numbness or pain on the lip or mouth area
- Macule Phase: the area then becomes red in reaction to the virus
- Papule Phase: small, red bumps form and sufferers will feel throbbing pain
- Vesicle Phase: colorless, fluid-filled blisters start to develop
- Postule Phase: the clear liquid becomes yellow and pus forms
- Crust Phase: a yellow crust forms on the affected area
- Scabbing Phase: the area dries out and a reddish brown scab forms; the area may itch and burn
- Healing Phase: the scab falls off and pain disappears; there may be some residual swelling or dry flaking
How can I prevent cold sores from occurring?
There are actually several ways to help prevent cold sores. Avoid kissing and skin contact with people who have cold sores. Do not share food, drinks, or eating utensils with others, and wash your hands carefully before touching another person when you have cold sores.
Be careful touching other parts of your body – your eyes and genital area are particularly susceptible to spreading of the virus. Avoid situations that can trigger cold sores (listed above), such as cold and sun.
You should also eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and take vitamins and supplements.
What can I do if I have a cold sore?
Avoid abrasive, acidic, and spicy foods. You should also take care when brushing your teeth so as not to aggravate the sore. Treating a cold sore early will help shorten the duration and will ease the pain and discomfort.
When you feel the first tingle, apply Herpecin L and use it continually for the length of the cold sore. You can use Herpecin L everyday, which helps protect the lips from the sun with SPF 30. If you are not sure if you have a cold sore or not, consult a doctor.
1 Gallup Study of the Market for Cold Sore Treatment Products, 2007
2 Trends in Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 Seroprevalence in the United States, 2006