Once infected with the HSV-1 cold sore virus, the virus never leaves your body. Although most people aren’t exactly sure when they first encounter the virus, it’s usually contracted in early childhood, even if it did not manifest as a visible cold sore. The virus will remain dormant until it is triggered. Cold sore triggers may include colds, flu, fever, stress, fatigue, and environmental factors like sun and wind.
A cold sore can start as a burning or tingling sensation on your lip or around your mouth. It can develop into a small red patch with a blister. Once the blister opens, a hard crust will form and eventually fall off. The area affected will return to normal once the life cycle of a cold sore is complete. The life cycle of a cold sore is typically 10 to 14 days.
Yes, cold sores are highly contagious. You can become infected with the virus by kissing, touching your fingers to your mouth or eyes (if your fingers are already infected), and sharing infected items. Sanitizing surfaces and good hand-washing practices can help eliminate the likelihood of spread.
Cold sores cannot be instantly cured, but you can alleviate the symptoms.
If your cold sore is especially painful or irritating, your dermatologist may prescribe an anesthetic gel to alleviate pain or oral antiviral medication to speed healing or prevent a recurrence. Oral medications are more effective when started within the first 48 hours of the outbreak.