Cold Sores: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

cold sore

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are tiny, blister-like lesions that appear on the lips, chin, cheeks, or nostrils, as well as the gums or roof of the mouth. They are caused by a herpes simplex virus infection. Antiviral drugs may aid in their management.

Symptoms of cold sores:

Depending on whether this is your first outbreak or a recurrence, your symptoms will differ. Symptoms of a cold sore may not appear for up to 20 days after being exposed to the virus for the first time. The sores might continue for a few days. And it might take 2 to 3 weeks for the blisters to heal fully. If blisters reappear, they will frequently develop in the same location and will be less severe than the original outbreak.

You may encounter:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Gums that hurt
  • Throat ache
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Lymph nodes that are swollen

Cold Sores Causes:

Close contact, such as kissing, spreads cold sores from person to person. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and, less often, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) cause them. Both of these viruses can harm the mouth or genitals and are transmitted through oral sex. Even if you don’t notice the sores, the infection can spread.


You can apply lotions or ointments straight to the sore. If you start using these lotions as soon as you sense tingling or itching — before the cold sore appears — you may be able to avoid it.

Your clinician may prescribe an antiviral medication that you use orally to treat cold sores.


Take the following precautions to avoid transmitting cold sores to others:

  • Keep your hands clean at all times. When you have a cold sore, wash your hands well before touching yourself or others, particularly newborns.
  • While blisters are present, avoid kissing and skin contact with others. When blisters release fluid, the virus spreads most quickly.
  • Items should not be shared. When blisters are present, utensils, towels, lip balm, and other personal things might transmit the infection.

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