Nothing can ruin your day quite like a cold sore. It seems like they only show up at the worst possible times and they are always embarrassing. Unfortunately, the fear of cold sores fuels the wealth of misinformation about them and many people end up believing the myths that float around. We at Jackson Center for Smiles wrote this article to clear up all the confusion and give Jackson, MS residents the facts.
What are cold sores?
You may have heard that cold sores are a type of oral herpes. This is actually true. However, before you recoil in horror, consider that 80% of the population carries this virus. That’s 8 out of 10 people! It is also true that cold sores stay with you for life, but some people will never have a single blister. On the other hand, some people have outbreaks regularly.
What do they look like?
Cold sores appear as blisters near the mouth, particularly on or around the lips. The entire cycle of a cold sore usually lasts between 8 and 12 days. An important distinction between cold sores and canker sores is that cold sores very rarely appear inside the mouth. If you are uncertain, feel free to call or come visit us at Jackson Center for Smiles and Dr. Watson will help you sort it out.
How are cold sores transmitted?
First things first, you may have heard a rumor that it is possible to contract cold sores from dental work. This is 100% false. Dr. Watson adheres to the highest standards of sterilization and cleanliness, making any kind of contamination nearly impossible. However, cold sores are transmitted orally and there’s a good chance that you will get them if you kiss or share a drink with someone who is having an active outbreak. That being said, the majority of people come into contact with cold sores before reaching the age of seven, so you may actually have been a carrier for many years without knowing it.
What causes breakouts?
There are a number of factors that can influence an outbreak, but the most common offender is stress. Additionally, an unhealthy diet, an excess of alcohol, illness, or anything that temporarily compromises your immune system may contribute to the formation of cold sores. It is also possible for an outbreak to be triggered by a dental procedure, so it is very important to let Dr. Watson know beforehand if you are prone to cold sores. If given notice, we can reduce the lip stress that occurs during some procedures, and in doing so, lower the risk of an outbreak.
How are cold sores treated?
There a number of over-the-counter cold sore remedies, but Dr. Watson will recommend what he feels is best for his patients’ specific condition. After applying these medications, you will find that the burning and itching subsides in only a few minutes. Even better, most cold sore medicines will turn an embarrassing and uncomfortable ten days into a manageable three or four days.
As always, Dr. Watson is the expert, and we encourage all Jackson, MS folks to come see us at Jackson Center for Smiles for a consultation. We love helping our patients out and we’re happy to answer any questions you may have!