Cold Sores Explained
If you have ever had small red blisters around your mouth, a tingling sensation on your lips or ugly red scabs under your nose, then most likely you have had cold sores. Cold sores, also known as oral herpes or fever blisters, are very common and still not curable.
Cold sores appear as single or groups of small fluid-filled blisters in the face area, particularly on and around the lips. Occasionally, they may also appear on the nostrils, cheek, chin, and nose. The skin beneath and around them becomes red and swollen. The blisters will crack and discharge clear fluid, then will be covered by a yellow coating. A few days or a week later the coating will fall off and leave a pinkish skin which will heal sometimes leaving a scar. Like many other skin diseases, cold sores are very irritating. Most of them will cause pain, tingling, or numbness around the mouth. The pain can be mild or severe depending on how you are feeling, and the most painful part is felt when the blisters are breaking or splitting open on the lips.
Many people with cold sores experience a painful, tingling, burning or itching feeling in their face, occurring one or two days before the blisters appear. This is called the prodromal stage. The skin may become red and swelling during this stage as our body reacts to the viral infection. Fever, headache, nausea, dizziness, sore throat (which may lead to difficulty in swallowing) and swollen glands in our neck or other body parts can also occur. The severity of these symptoms can be varied, depending on our condition. The prodromal stage usually lasts a few hours, but it can last up to two days. So don’t be surprised if you experience these symptoms (hopefully not), and then wake up in the next morning to find cold sores on your face or nose area.
How long will they last?
The symptoms of cold sores usually take one week to appear after skin contact to the virus. In some cases, it can take up to 20 days. The duration of cold sores are usually 10 to 14 days, including the healing time. Although they are very contagious, they will heal by themselves as long as our immune system functions normally. This can take time though, with most cold sores lasting in excess of 10 days. Anyone who is sick or has a reduced immune system is more likely to experience difficulty in getting rid of them and more severe symptoms of cold sores.
In rare cases, cold sores can also occur inside the mouth. Cold sores inside the mouth must be differentiated from canker sores. This is very important, because those two diseases are very different. Most people have difficulty in differentiating them. First, cold sores generally appear in the face area. If they occur inside the mouth then usually you can find them on the mouth’s roof or gums, while canker sores only appear inside the mouth on the soft tissue such as inside of lips or oral mucosa. Canker sores are basically ulcerations that can be caused by trauma inside our mouth (usually from improper tooth brushing), acute stress, or allergies to food or particular bacteria in the mouth. Another important thing is that canker sores are not contagious. Both of these diseases are irritating, but cold sores are worse because they are noticeable and make us look unattractive. You definitely do not want any of them on your face.