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Cold Sore: Causes & Risk Factors & Treatment

cold sore

Cold Sores

Cold sores are fluid-filled painful lesions that emerge around the mouth generally on one of the lips. Furthermore, in some cases, a cold sore can erupt anywhere on the face, fingers or quite rarely inside the mouth and nose. Another name used for cold sores is fever blisters. 

Cold sores are caused by a virus named Herpes Simplex virus ( HSV ) in medicine. There are two types of this virus. The first and most common one is HSV-1 which is the reason for a cold sore around the mouth. The second one is HSV-2 which is slightly less common and causes genital herpes.

However, from time to time, HSV-2 can cause cold sore around the mouth whereas HSV-1 causes herpes around the genital area.

Herpes Simplex virus is quite common throughout the world. How prevalent it is can be explained by the fact that nearly 90 per cent of the world’s adult population can develop cold sores at some time since they carry the Herpes Simplex virus.

Ahead of time, it is safe to say that, there is no cure for this ailment. Once the virus enters the body, the virus ( HSV ) accompanies the person until death. The good news is that cold sore is not a life-threatening health condition

 There are ways to reduce symptoms, which we will be talking about down below in detail.

How do we get infected with a cold sore virus (HSV)?

As mentioned above, cold sores are caused by a virus ( HSV ) that enters the body and sits inside the nerve cells. Therefore, it bears repeating, that it is a life-long condition and is quite contagious. As such nearly everyone around the world has it.

Contact with the person who carries the virus or the objects on which the virus exists infects the individuals. For instance, sharing forksspoonsrazors, and towels. Additionally, kissing spreads the virus, if one of them has the virus.

Cold sores are rather contagious, especially when they appear on the skin. But, cold sores don’t have to be visible to spread from person to person. 

Are Cold Sores Dangerous?

Even though there is no way to expel the virus that causes cold sores from the body, as most of us know from personal experiences, cold sores don’t impose a serious risk and heal on their own within 10 to 15 days. Let’s also not forget that cold sores do not leave a scar where they occurred.

However, the situation can be harder when the virus infiltrates the body for the first time. Due to the fact that the body doesn’t recognise this virus initially, hence defenceless against it, the effect of the virus can be severe and the virus may bring about flu-like symptoms such as sore throatfever or body aches.

But thereafter, since the body has produced antibodies, the severity of the symptoms decreases remarkably and the cold sore may not emerge again.

On the other hand, cold sores can be a serious issue for people with a weakened immune system and especially for children who have a weak immune system relative to an adult. Therefore, symptoms might be severe in children, particularly during the first encounter ( child – virus ). 

What Causes Cold Sores

As repeated a couple of times above, the virus known as Herpes Simplex is responsible for the cold sores. Most people meet the virus in their childhood.

Some people get cold sores more frequently than others. And, Some people have never got cold sores despite carrying the virus in their nerve cells. This difference may stem from some risk factors.

• AIDS ( Weakened Immune System ) 

º Severe Burns

• Stress

º Eczema

• Chemotherapy

º Hormonal Changes

• Cold – Flu

The above-given risk factors can reactive the virus which has been dormant in the nerve cells, thus, causing a cold sore breakout.

According to a study; after the age of 35 people experience less cold sores outbreak.


It is impossible to get rid of the virus once it infiltrates into the body. But, what’s relieving is that a cold sore is not a dangerous health condition. Although there is no way to kill the virus in the body, there are certain things to ease the symptoms and accelerate the healing process. 

As mentioned, each cold sore breakout lasts approximately 10 to 15 days. However, sometimes, cold sores can be painful. Therefore, foreseeing it’s coming with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around the mouth and acting accordingly can reduce the severity of these fluid-filled blisters and accelerate the healing process.

Antiviral creams can be bought from pharmacies, and are effective in cold sore treatment. These creams also help the skin heal faster.

Cold sore patches are effective in cold sores treatment. These patches are available in pharmacies.

Hot temperatures are thought to be a risk factor for the cold sore eruption, therefore protecting skin with sunscreen especially while the skin is healing is important. 

Ice can be conducive to easing the pain in the treatment process. Apply the ice to the area, it may provide some comfort. 

Aloe vera, which is also used for skin burn, has an antiviral property, therefore, may help treatment. 

Last but not least, stress is a risk factor for cold sores occurrence, for this reason, minimising stress is a sensible idea to avoid this ailment.