Cold Sores Pictures

Cold sores are liquid-filled blisters that often develop around the mouth. Also known as a fever blister, it’s estimated that more than one-half of Americans between ages 14 and 49 carry the virus that causes a cold sore. (1)

A cold sore is a strain of the herpes virus, but it isn’t usually caused by the virus that most often causes genital herpes. Genital herpes is primarily caused by HSV-2. (5)

Short answer: No. Cold sores are nothing like pimples. Popping or picking at a cold sore could spread the virus to other parts of your body. (2)

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While antiviral medication stops the spread of herpes virus in the body, topical ointments and creams (lidocaine, benzocaine, dibucaine, or benzyl alcohol) can provide pain relief. (8) Apply these directly to the cold sore as directed. Only use creams that are specifically for the lips or facial area.

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How Do You Prevent Cold Sores?

To keep your immune system strong, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet.

If you tend to have outbreaks after too much sun exposure, wear sunscreen and limit the amount of time you spend in the sun. (3)

Children who suck their thumbs can also pass the virus to their hands.

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You can also use lip balm, petroleum jelly, or a lip moisturizer to prevent dryness. In addition, apply a cool or warm compress a few times a day to reduce inflammation and remove crusting. (3,8)

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Is It a Canker Sore or Something Else?

In the days that follow, the blisters break open and ooze. A scab forms over the cold sore after about a week, and falls off in about 10 to 14 days. (6)

If you’re infected with the virus that causes a cold sore, you can prevent an outbreak by avoiding certain triggers. A weak immune system, stress, fatigue, and even exposure to sunlight or wind can trigger an outbreak. (7)

A cold sore is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1, and occasionally HSV type 2. These sores can develop on different parts of the body, although they’re commonly found around the lips. Some people have cold sores around their nose and cheeks, too. (4)

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Dabbing rubbing alcohol on a cold sore can also dry it out and promote healing. (9) But you shouldn’t use this product if you experience burning.

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A Detailed Guide to Treating Cold Sores

The virus can spread through kissing, and through sharing eating utensils, drinks, and personal items, such as a towel or lipstick. (2)

If you haven’t been infected with the virus, avoid skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a cold sore, wash your hands with soap and water after touching a cold sore, and don’t share utensils or personal items. (4)

Most cold sores subside within two weeks, but you can turn to over-the-counter treatments, prescription meds, and home remedies to help get rid of these blisters.

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