How can something so little cause so much discomfort or embarrassment? If you have ever suffered from a cold sore on your lip or around your mouth, you are likely quite familiar with the dread and frustration that arises once you realize a cold sore is erupting. Cold sores typically go away on their own within a week, but that can seem like forever to someone who is embarrassed by the visible blister or has trouble eating or drinking due to the pain.
What Causes Cold Sores?
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, or HSV-1. This virus is actually contracted in early childhood for most people. You will not typically display any symptoms, however, until the virus “wakes up” in your body. This causes the virus to infect the skin and produce a cold sore, or fever blister. It is important to note that, unlike canker sores, cold sores are very contagious. There are some common triggers that seem to “wake up” the HSV-1 virus and cause cold sores. Avoiding the following triggers may prevent you from suffering your next outbreak or at least give you some time to prepare for that fact that a cold sore may emerge:
- Sun Exposure
- Illness, such as cold or flu
Are There Cold Sore Remedies?
There is no way to get rid of or treat the HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores. However, there are some simple remedies that may lessen the duration of a cold sore and provide you some needed relief. You can alleviate the discomfort by avoiding spicy or acidic foods, applying ice or using over-the-counter topical remedies such as Abreva. Topical agents can provide a numbing effect, soften the scab and speed the healing.
When Should I Worry About a Cold Sore?
Cold sores follow a general pattern of stages. You may feel a simple tingle or burning sensation for the first day before you actually see a cold sore. The blister itself can last up to 3-4 days. Next, the sore turns into an ulcer or open sore for a day. Lastly, the cold sore will crust over or scab. If your cold sore seems to be worsening or you have any mouth sore that lasts longer than 2 weeks, you need to tell your dentist, as it could be a sign of oral cancer. Gilreath Family Dentistry offers thorough oral cancer screenings as part of a patient’s routine dental checkup.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,