Sex Education for the Real World…


Cold Sores: The Truth.

Posted October 25, 2012 by Kimani in Infection Section

Also known as “fever blisters,” cold sores are one of the most prevalent transmittable diseases in the nation. About 90 percent of adults worldwide — even those who’ve never had symptoms of an infection — test positive for evidence of the virus that causes cold sores.

Cold sores tend to be a socially isolating disease, because they are extremely visible while active. Educating yourself on the disease may be the difference between transmitting and avoiding it.

 What are cold sores?

Cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, are groups of small blisters on the lip and around the mouth. The skin around the blisters is often red, swollen, and sore. The blisters may break open, leak a clear fluid, and then scab over after a few days. They usually heal in several days to 2 weeks.

Photo courtesy of UVA Health

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both virus types can cause sores around the mouth (herpes labialis) and on the genitals (genital herpes).

The herpes simplex virus usually enters the body through a break in the skinaround or inside the mouth. It is usually spread when a person touches a cold sore or touches infected fluid-such as from sharing eating utensils or razors, kissing an infected person, or touching that person’s saliva. A parent who has a cold sore often spreads the infection to his or her child in this way. Cold sores can also be spread to other areas of the body, primarily the nose and chin areas.


Photo Credit

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms of cold sores may include pain around your mouth and on your lips, a fever, a sore throat, or swollen glands in your neck or other parts of the body. Small children sometimes drool before cold sores appear. After the blisters appear, the cold sores usually break open, leak a clear fluid, and then crust over and disappear after several days to 2 weeks. For some people, cold sores can be very painful.

Some people have the virus but don’t get cold sores. They have no symptoms.

Photo Credit

How are cold sores diagnosed?

Your doctor can tell if you have cold sores by asking you questions to find out whether you have come into contact with the virus and by examining you. You probably won’t need any tests.

How are cold sores treated?

Cold sores will usually start to heal on their own within a few days. But if they cause pain or make you feel embarrassed, they can be treated. Treatment may include skin creams, ointments, or sometimes pills. Treatment may get rid of the cold sores only 1 to 2 days faster, but it can also help ease painful blisters or other uncomfortable symptoms.

The herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores cannot be cured. After you get infected, the virus stays in your body for the rest of your life. If you get cold sores often, treatment can reduce the number of cold sores you get and how severe they are.

How can you prevent cold sores?

There are some things you can do to keep from getting the herpes simplex virus.

  • Avoid coming into contact with infected body fluids, such as kissing an infected person.
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking cups, or other items that a person with a cold sore may have used.

Remember, not everyone’s cold sore is triggered by the same thing. But there are seven common factors that may cause your cold sore outbreaks. Want to avoid them before things get ugly? Read on.

 Fight Fatigue
Like stress and illness, fatigue can sap your immune system, making you easy prey for a cold sore outbreak. In today’s hectic world, feeling “beat” can give cold sores the advantage. So relax. Exercise. Sleep. And give your immune system a fighting chance.
 Stay Calm
Sure, stress messes with emotions. But stress can also wear down your immune system, giving that dormant cold sore a chance to launch a sneak attack. Fight the urge to stress out. Instead, breathe deeply and relax.
 Keep Warm
Protect yourself from the cold. Wear a scarf or pull up that turtleneck to avoid exposure to cold weather, dry air and winter wind that can dry out lips.
 Shade Yourself
Go on the offensive against sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin and lead to a cold sore. So fight back with a good sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and a beach umbrella.
 Know Your Hormones
For women, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can trigger an outbreak. Pay attention to your own hormonal cycle to manage stress. And give yourself a fighting chance against flare-ups by keeping a tube of Abreva® handy when you’re feeling that your hormones may trigger an outbreak.
 Protect Your Mouth
Trauma to your mouth or lips can launch a cold sore outbreak. Could be an injury. Could be a dental procedure that pulls at the sensitive area around your mouth. If this is one of your triggers, make your dentist an ally and join forces to minimize trauma.
 Stay Strong
A fever, a cold or the flu can leave you feeling run-down and on the defense against a cold sore outbreak. When you feel a cold, fever or flu coming on, listen to the experts and get plenty of rest and fluids. It could be just what you need to KO a cold sore.



About the Author


A NY transplant in Florida, Kimani has taken on the task of educating the world on sexual health and education. The Mount Vernon native has seen AIDS and HIV spread through her community like wildfire, and hopes to cease the transmission of these and other diseases one person at a time. If you know better, you're inclined to do better.

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