Picture of Cold Sores (Fever Blisters)

Canker Sores do not have a known cause. They may be triggered by an injury, stress, smoking, or deficiencies in folic acid, iron, or vitamin B12.

Yes, but it’s rare. It can happen if you touch a cold sore, then touch an area of broken skin or a mucous membrane (that’s the moist, protective lining found in places where your body opens to the outside — mouth, nose, genitals). That can lead to a herpes skin infection. To prevent this, wash your hands and don’t touch the cold sore.

Fever Blister

Fever Blisters & Canker Sores

UpToDate: Treatment of herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in immunocompetent patients.”

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Picture of Cold Sores (Fever Blisters)

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They also differ in appearance: Fever blisters are patches of several small fluid-filled blisters, while canker sores are usually single round white or yellow sores with a red border.

Typically, both types of sores go away on their own and treatment is not usually required. There is no known treatment that can permanently cure fever blisters or canker sores and prevent them from recurring. Treatment focuses on minimizing the pain and speeding recovery time.

Fever Blisters are caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus, usually type 1, or HSV-1. It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults have been infected with the virus, although many people with the infection do not ever show symptoms. The virus generally resides in the nerve cells where it may periodically reactivate, traveling to the skin and causing recurring fever blisters.

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Collection of small, fluid-filled blisters

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Despite the name, that isn’t what causes them. The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is most often the cause. You get it from contact with an infected person’s skin or body fluids. The virus damages your skin as it reproduces. That leaves behind weepy sores that last about a week. Between outbreaks, HSV-1 hides inside nerve cells, so it’s never completely cured.

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Usually a single round white or yellow sore with a red border

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About two-thirds of us have been infected with the HSV-1 virus. It usually comes via well-meaning kisses from relatives or romantic partners. So why do only an unlucky few get cold sores? The answer may be in your genes. Most of the people who get cold sores share genes that may relate to how HSV-1 acts in your body. This could be what causes outbreaks.

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