Treating & Preventing Cold Sores

Symptoms of a cold sore can include burning or tingling that begins a few days before blisters appear. A cold sore is a raised, red blister full of tender and painful fluid. You may also have a fever, headache, sore throat or pain when you swallow, swollen lymph nodes, body aches or pains, and nausea.

What about a cold sore that isn’t on your lip? They aren’t as common, but they can pop up anywhere on your face, like your cheek, chin, or nose. Most people’s cold sores reappear in the same area each time.

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Do cold sores look like herpes

Cold sores

University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences: “Ocular Herpes Simplex.”

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

Yes. Use caution while you have a sore. Don’t kiss, and don’t share toothbrushes, silverware, or glasses. Skip oral sex. That will reduce most of the spread of HSV-1, although you may not be able to control the spread completely.

Treating & Preventing Cold Sores

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This article explains the similarities and differences between cold sores vs. herpes, including how you get them, what symptoms they cause, and how they are treated.

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Are Cold Sores Herpes?

While the two types of herpes generally stay in their genital or oral place, oral-to-genital transmission of HSV-1 is possible. To prevent spread, the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) recommends abstaining from oral contact, like kissing and oral sex, while experiencing an HSV-1 outbreak, aka cold sores or fever blisters. Otherwise, using a barrier, like a dental dam or a condom, can limit exposure as well.

Even with an HSV-2 genital herpes infection, the odds of an isolated non-genital outbreak (such as on the buttocks or thighs only) are pretty low.

Or it may not. In fact, the vast majority of people with HSV-1 and HSV-2 are asymptomatic (meaning without symptoms) and may never have symptoms.

The Difference Between Cold Sores and Herpes

Cold Sores vs. Herpes: Differences, Similarities, and Treatments

Cold sores are typically caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), while genital herpes is most commonly caused by a closely related type called herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). But increasingly, more and more genital herpes cases are being caused by HSV-1 as the virus is passed from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex.

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HSV-1 = Oral herpes (usually)

They’re contagious, obviously, but it’s not just through mouth-to-mouth contact. If you’re experiencing a cold sore, it’s best not to touch the affected area with your hand since the infection could spread via your fingertips (in general, it’s a good idea to always be extra-vigilant and wash your hands when you have any sort of open wound). The cold sores can also appear on other parts of your body, like the inside of your mouth, on your face, or inside your nose.

There is no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2 or any vaccines to protect against them. However, there are topical or oral antivirals that can reduce the severity and duration of an outbreak.

When symptoms do appear, they can vary based not only on the location of the outbreak but also on whether HSV-1 or HSV-2 is involved.

Cold Sores vs. Herpes: What’s the Difference

Cold Sores and Fever Blisters are Herpes

This latter phenomenon, called asymptomatic shedding, occurs when a virus passes through the intact skin of someone who may not even be aware they have been infected.

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Symptoms of Genital Herpes

But that doesn’t mean that the viruses are indistinguishable or act exactly the same. While the two viruses share many of the same genetic and molecular characteristics, their differences influence how they cause symptoms, the transmission method, and the treatment.

Unlike HSV-2, which is almost entirely transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, HSV-1 is transmitted via oral-to-oral contact, usually resulting in orolabial herpes, or cold sores around the mouth. These cold sores, which are also known as fever blisters, can be extremely painful and take two to three weeks to heal completely.

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.

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