sores are caused by a virus that can lie dormant in the nerve
cells in your skin and may emerge again as an active infection.
Following contact with an infected person, the first signs of
a HSV-1 or 2 cold sore can occur within 2 to 20 days. After the
initial infection, cold sores can enter into a recurrent cycle
when the virus erupts again. These recurrent eruptions can be
caused by sunlight, cold wind, stress, colds, flu as well as other
Cold sores can be caused by either herpes symplex
virus one (HSV-1) or herpes symplex virus two (HSV-2). However
most cold sores are caused by HSV-1. HSV-2 is more commonly associated
with genital herpes but can be the main cause of cold sores in
According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Children's
Health, nearly 80 percent of the population carries the herpes
symplex virus that causes cold sores and 1 in 3 children carry
the virus before age 5.
Symptoms & Stages: The entire
flare up of a cold sore lasts 7 to 14 days and follows a 5 stage
routine pattern. (1). Cold sores will begin as an irritating,
burning and scratching "tingle" that is beneath the
skin and non-visible. This initial stage is called the Prodrome
stage. (2). Following this prodrome stage which lasts last about
a day, either a single blister or cluster of blisters appear usually
near the lips. (3). The cold sore or HSV virus then enters the
ulcer or weeping stage by day 4 whereby the blister opens, releases
fluid, and reveals a reddish, tender area that is sensitive. This
third stage is the most contagious and painful. (4). During the
fourth stage, the blister will start to dry up and crust. One
should not pick at the crust during this time. (5). In the final
stage, scabs will form over the sore and it will begin to heal.
Treatment: Unfortunately, there
are no known cures for cold sores and they generally clear up
on their own without treatment. However, several OTC creams (such
as Carmex) can ease the pain and discomfort but don't expect them
to shorten the healing time or block transmission of the principal
causing herpes symplex virus. Some prescription medicines (such
as Abreva, Zovirax) can shorten the duration time by a few days.
See your doctor for more information about these medicines.
Prevention: In the absense of definitive
treatment options, prevention of transmission of herpes symplex
viruses should be a main focus for adults and adults with children.
Babies and young children are especially vulnerable
as adults with a cold sore outbreak may seek affectionate
contact with the young child through either kissing, hugging
or holding. Parents should be on guard to prevent this contact
from adults with an outbreak the cold sore causing viruses.
Besides watching out for their children, young
teens and adults should avoid contact with those who might
have cold sores, and if they are the one with cold sores,
contact should be resisted.
Keep your hands and face clean during an outbreak
and use OTC creams which might shield the sore.
Avoid touching other parts of your body during
an outbreak, taking special care not to rub your eyes after
touching your lips or face. !! Herpes symplex viruses
of the eye can cause scarring of the cornea and is a leading
cause of blindness in the United States. !!
Since sunlight and cold wind can trigger an
outbreak, apply sunblock or other OTC creams around the lips
to prevent a cold sore recurrence.