Cold sores are the consequence of a viral infection, normally in childhood. They usually appear on the lips and nostrils but can be more widespread.
You can catch cold sores by:
The first signs are usually tingling, burning or itching. Within 24 hours painful blisters form. Blisters breakdown into shallow ulcers after a few days.
Cold sores are infectious from the early tingling stage up to the end of the ulcer phase. Healing is normally complete in 10 to 14 days.
In children cold sores can become infected with bacteria and develop impetigo.
After the first infection, the virus lies dormant in the nerve that supplies the infected area. The virus can be reactivated at any time and cause another cold sore. Various trigger factors are: stress, fatigue, strong sunlight, UV light from sun beds, menstruation or pregnancy and generally when feeling run-down.
Yes. Cold sores can cause an eye infection (herpes keratitis) that can lead to blindness, cold sores on the fingers and genital herpes. People with eczema can become very ill if they pick up the virus.
If you have a cold sore, wash your hands thoroughly if you accidentally touch it.
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