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Cold Sores

Cold sores are small blisters caused by the herpes simplex virus that are usually found around the area of the lips, mouth, nose and chin of the face. The herpes simplex virus usually infects people in childhood or adolescence and then remains in their system for life. Once you begin to develop symptoms of cold sores these can reoccur at any time in your life. Cold sores are quite common with 30% of people with the simplex herpes virus will experience the symptoms of cold sores. Cold sores can be easily spread to other people.      


Triggers for cold sores

Cold sores can be triggered in those with the herpes simplex virus by various conditions. Triggers of cold sores can include:  

  • having a cold,  
  • undergoing physical or emotional stress,
  • exposure to sunlight,  
  • hormonal changes, or  
  • exposure to windy weather.      



Symptoms of cold sores can include:  

  • localized itching a few days before the cold sore appears,
  • small, fluid-filled blisters form,  
  • pain and tenderness in the affected area,  
  • sensation of heat in the affected area, and
  • blisters can burst after a few days and the area will dry up into a crust.      



Cold sores will generally clear up by themselves and in most cases treatment is not needed. Cold sores cannot be cured, although there are a few things you can do to manage the irritating symptoms. These include:

  • avoid picking the blisters as this may cause scarring,  
  • apply ice to soothe the affected area,  
  • speak to your health care professional about creams to treat the symptoms and relieve the affected area, and  
  • speak to your healthcare professional about medications that may help to reduce the size of the cold sores and their duration.      


To avoid the spread of cold sores to others, people with cold sores should avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, towels, drinking bottles, cups and cutlery.      



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.   Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.      



The Better Health Channel