Cold sores are tiny but painful blisters that usually form close to the mouth. They are also called oral herpes or fever blisters. These painful blisters can show up as a cluster or just a single sore. When they appear, they are seen in areas such as lips, chin or cheeks. Once they come out for the first time around the mouth, it’s almost certain that the sores will reappear at the same spots.
However, these sores are widespread and very contagious. Thus the only way to minimize the contacting the disease is to stay away from getting into contact with the victim’s saliva or fluids from the sores.
What Causes Cold Sores?
Cold sore is a viral infection due to the virus called herpes simplex otherwise commonly referred to as herpes. However, it is possible to get infected with the herpes virus yet not develop cold sores.
The herpes simplex viruses are of two types namely:
- Herpes simplex virus type 1, HSV-1
- Herpes simplex virus type 2, HSV type -2
The majority of cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1. The herpes simplex virus type 2 affects the genital region.
It is important to know that once the HSV-1 infects you, you become a carrier for life. After the infection, it might show some symptoms then the symptoms disappear again. However, the disappearance of the symptoms doesn’t mean that the infection is gone. It will remain inactive in your body for awhile until it is activated.
How frequently do cold sores occur?
The frequency of the fever blisters occurring differs from one person to the next. The difference is mainly due to the genetic factors. However, it is a fact that oral herpes is symptomatic to most people. That is they carry the herpes simplex virus yet display no signs or symptoms. Yet to others at the first attack mostly during childhood or adolescents, the symptoms appear then remain dormant for a while then breaking again in semi-regular occurrences.
What are the some of the triggers of Oral herpes?
As said once you are infected with the herpes simplex virus you become a carrier for life since it can’t be treated. However, in most cases, it will not display the signs after the initial attack.
However, the following factors or condition will awaken the virus into another attack:
- Viral infection
Any viral infection like fever attack will prompt the oral herpes symptom to appear again. Similarly, other upper respiratory difficulties reactivate an attack too
- Hormonal changes
Usually, women undergo hormonal changes during the menstrual period. Such an alteration in the hormonal balance triggers the fever blisters to become active again.
Any herpes simplex virus carrier who undergoes either emotional or physical stress or even both awakens another attack.
- Wind or sun exposure
Prolonged exposure to the sun (for example in tanning beds) or wind is another trigger of oral herpes.
- Alteration in the immune system
Any change in the body that lowers the immune system provides an ample opportunity for another cold sore attack. For instance, the HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system.
- Dental procedure
Most dental procedures like tooth removal increase the chances of the cold sores becoming active once more.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Herpes
Oral herpes symptoms for the first attack differ from the successive attacks that come later on. Most victims experience their initial attack during childhood.
The fresh attach is usually characterized by the following signs and symptoms;
Painful blisters are normally visible on the lips, near the mouth, cheeks, nose or throat. Eventually, the blisters break and turn into scabs. The red and fluid-filled sores are usually accompanied by an itching or burning sensation.
At times you might experience a tingling or burning feeling in an area a few days before the swollen fluid filled blister develops.
The painful blisters may persist for even two weeks before crusting. During that stage, the blister is very contagious.
The appearance of the first red blister may delay up to two weeks from the moment of the herpes simplex viral attack.
In the case of the fresh attack, additional symptoms include
- The flu like signs for instance fever,
- The lymph nodes become swollen
- The previously affected area becomes itchy again.
In case the symptoms become severe and bar you from taking fluids solid foods, then seek medical help. Most doctors are able to confirm cold sore infections by merely visual observation. However fluid sample from the blisters can also help to test for the presence of HSV-1
From the above signs, it’s easier to tell if you have cold sores and herpes. However when in doubt, a test by your doctor will clear any doubt about the infection. As soon as the signs become visible, keep away from making contacts with other people. Remember oral herpes is manageable but not curable.