Cold sores usually reveal themselves in the mouth and on the lips by firstly itching then later on as bubbles filled with liquid. They then burst and turn into a wound. They last 7-10 days. Cold sores are rarely seen on gums and on the hard upper pallet.
Cold sores are a common infection caused by viruses. The viruses that cause cold sores are called ‘Herpes Simplex Viruses’ in medicine.
After a cold sore comes out once, the possibility of it repeating itself is very high. Some people have cold sores two to three times a year however some people with the virus will only have a cold sore once in their life. Additionally there are people who never encounter a cold sore in their lives although they do have the virus, the virus is known as ‘asleep’. The cold sore virus may not ever activate once it falls asleep in the nerve cells.
Cold sore viruses are classified under 8 different types such as HSV-1, HSV-2 and HSV-3. The HSV-2 virus mostly causes genital cold sores whereas the HSV-1 virus causes the sores on the face. However, both viruses may cause cold sores on the face and the genital area.
How do cold sores spread?
Cold sore viruses mostly spread by saliva and close contact. The person who carries the virus can spread it through saliva, mutually used objects or sexual intercourse. There is no need for there to be a visual cold sore for the virus to be contagious and this makes it difficult to take precaution. Most children get this virus from adults when they are small. Kissing little children or squeezing their cheeks and hugging them create a risk for the spreading of cold sores.
Kissing or sharing cups, knives and forks, towels, makeup, razors etc. may cause the virus to spread. We said that a cold sore does not have to reveal itself for it to spread however touching a cold sore will also cause it to spread. If we do not wash our hands well, after touching a cold sore in the mouth, the sore may spread to other areas of our body.
Due to the fact that cold sore virus is a very contagious virus it is a very common problem.
What triggers cold sores to appear?
Stress can cause cold sores but this can only happen if we already have the cold sore virus in our body. The virus in our body is not always active. It waits for the body’s immune system to weaken. The triggers that cause cold sores to appear can be listed as follows:
- Time of the month
- Advanced diabetes
- Having an operation
- Consuming excessive amounts of vitamin A
- Too much sun exposure
- Hormonal changes
- Iron deficiency
- Having sexual intercourse often with different people
- The wounding of the affected area (by a cold sore)
- Illnesses that cause high temperature which weakens the immune system
- Inefficient nutrition
- High temperature
- Drugs used in the treatment of AIDS, eczema, serious burns and organ transplants can trigger cold sores.
What causes genital cold sores (Genital Herpes)?
The main cause of genital sores, as stated previously, is the spreading of the virus all over the body. The HSV-2 virus usually causes genital cold sores however recent research has shown that the HSV-1 virus may also cause cold sores in that area. As in the face, genital cold sores also are like painful bubbles and sores. Other symptoms such as; Discharge, temperature, exhaustion, headaches may also accompany cold sores in the genital region.
How can cold sores be prevented?
- When a lesion is spotted; the mouth, nose and genital regions must be protected against infections.
- A person who has a cold sore in their genital area must not have sexual intercourse or must take the necessary precaution.
- If a cold sore is present, it must not be popped in order to prevent the infection from spreading.
- Hands must be washed well before touching the infected risky area.
Cold sores are a very common infection seen in both adults and children. Research conducted reveals that at least 60% of the population has had a cold sore at one point in their lives.