Cold Sores

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Cold Sores

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What are cold sores?

Cold sores is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

They are common and usually start with a tingling, itching or burning feeling.

If left untreated, over the next 48 hours you may start to see small fluid-filled blisters appear which can appear anywhere on the face.

These blisters then may burst and crust over into a scab.

How long do cold sores last?

Cold sores are self-limiting so will usually clear up on its own.

They should start to heal within 10 days, but they are contagious and may be irritating or painful during the healing process.

What can trigger a cold sore?

Individuals may find that certain things trigger a cold sore, such as another illness, sunshine, stress or menstrual periods.

Are cold sores contagious?

Yes cold sores are contagious and can be passed from person to person, therefore it is important to avoid sexual contact or sharing equipment that may come into contact with the cold sores.

How long are cold sores contagious for?

They are contagious from the first moment you feel tingling or other signs of a cold sore coming on, up until when the cold sore has completely healed.

Can cold sores come back?

Yes, unfortunately they can however there are ways you can manage the outbreaks.

The reason cold sores can come back is because they are caused by a virus called herpes simplex and once you have the virus, it stays in your skin for the rest of your life.

From time to time, this virus may cause a cold sore.

Most people are exposed to the virus when they are young after close skin to skin contact with someone who has a cold sore, however it may not cause any symptoms until you’re older.

What can you take for cold sores?

Whilst cold-sores are self-limiting and should usually clear up on their own, there are certain treatments that may help manage the outbreaks.

There are some topical antiviral preparations and analgesics, mouthwash and lip barrier preparations which some people may find them helpful and are available over-the-counter.

Other treatment options for cold sores include, aciclovir antiviral cream such as Zovirax Cold Sore Cream and Aciclovir 200mg Tablets, which we offer through our service for delivery in a discreet & confidential manner.

What are some self-care measures I can take for cold sores?

You can try do the following:

  • Eat cool, soft foods
  • Avoid touching the cold sore
  • Avoid anything that triggers your cold sores
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after applying a cream to the cold sore
  • Use sunblock lip balm if you are outside in the sun
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help ease pain and swelling
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration

You should try to avoid the following:

  • Do not kiss anyone while you have a cold sore
  • Do not share anything that comes into contact with a cold sore such as cold sore creams, towels, cutlery or lipstick
  • Do not have sexual contact until your cold sore completely heals
  • Do not touch your cold sore apart from when applying the cream and if you do, you should wash your hands
  • Do not rub cream into the cold sore, instead you should dab it on
  • Do not eat acidic or salty food if it makes your cold sore feel worse

When should you visit your GP for your cold sore?

As mentioned, in most cases cold sores are self-limiting and should clear up on their own. However you should see your GP if:

  • The cold sore has not started to heal within 10 days
  • You are worried about a cold sore or think it may be something else
  • The cold sore is very large or painful
  • You or your child also have swollen, painful gums and sores in the mouth as this may indicate something else such as gingivostomatitis
  • You have a weakened immune system

 

Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored Sep 03, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed Sep 03, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm