Cold Sores

What are cold sores?

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.

How do you catch cold sores?

You can catch cold sores by:

  • Directly touching a cold sore
  • Kissing someone with a cold sure
  • Sharing household objects such as towels, cups and cutlery

What Are The Symptoms?

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.

Why do they keep coming back?

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.

Are cold sores a serious health problem?

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.

Our Advice

If you have a cold sore, wash your hands thoroughly if you accidentally touch it.

Do not:

  • Touch the cold Sore
  • Touch your eyes during the infection
  • Kiss (especially children) when you have the infection
  • Pick the ulcers or the scab. You will infect your fingers with the virus
  • Share eating/drinking utensils with others, especially children
  • Share the same towels or face cloths with others in your family

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