Cold Sores - Advice
Vantage Chemist advice on cold sores
Cold sores are caused by a herpes simplex virus infection. When cold sores occur, they are usually found on or around the lips or nose, and often will re-appear periodically in the same place.
People usually become infected with the virus during childhood; after a usually mild infection, the virus then lies dormant in the nerves until it is reactivated and causes a cold sore.
Common triggers that can cause the virus to reactivate include:
- Having a cold or flu
- Exposure to bright sunlight
- Emotional stress or being ‘run down' or unwell
- Operations on the face or dental work
- Minor damage or injury to an area affected by cold sores in the past
When the virus is reactivated it travels down the nerve to the skin, where it multiplies. This often causes a tingling feeling in the area, which is often a warning sign that a cold sore is about to appear. Other warning signs may include burning, itching or numbness.
As the virus multiplies it causes small red spots, before the blisters appear. The blisters then burst and merge into a weeping sore, which gradually dries up and scabs over.
Cold sores usually clear up within seven to 10 days and do not usually leave a scar. After the sore has healed, the virus lies dormant in the nerve again until the next attack is triggered.Treating with an antiviral cream at the first signs( tingling stage) of a cold sore can greatly reduce the length and severity of an attack.
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Cold sores are usually mild and clear up without treatment in most patients, although they can sometimes become infected with bacteria, especially if the patient touches or picks them with dirty hands. The virus that causes cold sores can cause more serious problems in someone with a weakened immune system, such as after chemotherapy or due to HIV infection. These people may need treatment with antiviral tablets.
Patients should see a health professional if:
- The cold sore is in or near your eyes
- The cold sore is inside your mouth, on your hands or in your genital area
- The cold sore is larger than a 1p piece
- There is pus, redness and swelling in or around the cold sore
- The cold sore has not healed after 14 days
- You suffer from cold sores frequently
- You have a weakened immune system
More information here at NHS Choices