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The Facts About Cold Sores
June 27th, 2014 by Dr. Watson

There’s a lot of misinformation about cold sores flying around in Jackson. Dr. Jim Ed Watson wants to set the record straight with the facts about cold sores so that you can keep your family healthy and protected. Let this serve as your personal guide to cold sore facts, myths, and treatment. As always, please feel free to give us at Jackson Center for Smiles a call with any questions.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores, or fever blisters, are painful infections caused by the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1 or oral herpes). They usually appear as sores on the outside of your lips and mouth. If you have a sore on the inside of your mouth, it is more likely a canker sore. Nine out of ten people have the oral herpes virus and will likely have at least one cold sore in their lifetime. However, only about four out of ten adult Americans have multiple outbreaks of cold sores. A cold sore is not the end of the world and many medications, creams, and balms exist to help them go away as quickly and painfully as possible.

How are they transmitted?

Cold sores are passed through any kind of oral contact, such as kissing or sharing utensils, towels, razors, beverages, etc. Although it is common to hear that cold sores are not contagious if you can’t see a blister, this is untrue. Cold sores are contagious from before an outbreak appears until the sore is completely crusted and healed over, which may take 7-10 days. Itching, pain, and sensitivity on the lips are signs of a coming outbreak and signal the point at which it is contagious.

If you have a cold sore or think you are getting one, the best ways to avoid spreading it are:

  1. Avoid oral contact with anyone in any form (including kissing, sharing food, utensils, lipstick, etc.)
  2. Touch your lips and mouth as little as possible and wash your hands immediately afterwards
  3. Be aware that although less common, the virus can spread to other parts of the body, such as the eyes, genitals, and brain (rare but potentially lethal).
  4. If you have a cold sore, never kiss a pregnant woman, someone with immune deficiencies, or a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

If you have any questions about cold sores or would like to schedule an appointment at Jackson Center for Smiles, feel free to give us a call.