Once a person has developed the herpes virus (usually through close body contact with a contagious person), the virus will remain dormant in their body forever, flaring up every now and then if their body becomes weakened, their immune system is compromised, and they are vulnerable to an outbreak. Once a person develops a cold sore, they very often develop future cold sores in the same area.
How to recognize the signs of a cold sore?
1) The blemish will show up outside your mouth, not inside. Cold sores usually form around the lips, the nose and sometimes on other areas of the face.
2) You can have a developing cold sore and not realize it, as the blemish doesn’t appear immediately. Cold sores often start as itchy, tingly, tight-feeling, slightly burning areas around the mouth, with no visible symptoms. Within a few days the area may turn red, develop some swelling and small bumps. Eventually this bumpy area will start to ooze a clear liquid and the area will turn crusty, which means the healing process has begun. A scab will form and eventually the cold sore will disappear. This entire process can take from 7-14 days to complete.
Is a cold sore the same thing as a canker sore?
No. Canker sores, small lesions call aphthous ulcers, occur inside the mouth, not outside like cold sores, and are not related to or caused by the presence of the herpes 1 virus. Canker sores can develop due to a variety of reasons including bacteria, allergies, stress, a pre-existing illness, and many others. Cold sores are also extremely contagious and canker sores are not.
What to do?
1) No matter how strong the urge, don’t touch, rub, scratch, pick or squeeze the affected area, even in the earliest stages. The affected area will only spread and slow down the healing process. Don’t try to hide the cold sore with concealing make-up. Also avoid salty and spicy foods that can also irritate and inflame the affected area.
2) As yet there are no definite cures for a cold sore. If you can detect the very earliest stage of a cold sore, you may have some luck with anti-viral medications that can be prescribed by your physician. There are some over-the-counter creams that may help reduce the urge to scratch. But once the cold sore has actually made its appearance, it will most likely have to run its course, taking as long as 14 days.
3) There are all kinds of advice, quick cures, even “miracle” treatments out there for getting rid of cold sores. Use common sense and caution before attempting these on yourself. Some people have found relief from applying ice to the area in the very first stage and then stopping the ice once the bumps appear. Some have found relief from hot and cold compresses applied very gently to the affected area (again, no rubbing). Once you have experienced a cold sore, you may be quicker to recognize the symptoms of a future cold sore in its earliest stage and find some relief with immediate intervention.
4) More than half of the American population will most likely become affected by the HSV-1 virus at some point in their lifetime. Some common sense tips can help reduce your chances of becoming infected with the virus in the first place:
* Maintain a healthy lifestyle with plenty of sleep and well-balanced meals.
* Keep your stress level as low as possible.
* Avoid close contact with contagious people, including their body fluids.
* Use your own toothbrush, glass, towels, and other personal items.
5) Try to be patient. Your cold sore should go away if left alone. If you get a lot of cold sores or if they take more than the normal time to heal, consult with your physician for help.