Cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, are small blisters or sores on the lips and around the mouth. The sores can take up to 3 weeks to heal and are highly contagious throughout much of this time. Cold sores are very common and are estimated to occur in 1 of every 5 people over the age of 12. Studies have shown that over 50 million Americans develop at least one cold sore each year. Let’s take a look at what causes these annoying sores.
What causes cold sores?
Cold sores are caused by type 1 of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and sometimes type 2 of the virus (HSV-2), that was once restricted to genital herpes. The virus is spread through contact with others, such as kissing, or sharing items that come into contact with the mouth. Once the initial symptoms have passed, the virus lays dormant in the nerves of the face and can reactivate in the same area to cause cold sores again. The virus never leaves once it enters the body, which means that there is no cure for cold sores. However, there are some antiviral products on the market to reduce the duration and severity of the sores. The best way to avoid cold sores is to avoid close contact or sharing items that have touched the mouth of an infected person.
Did you know?
Genital herpes was once thought to be only caused by HSV-2. However, we now know that this is incorrect. In fact, up to 50% of genital herpes is caused by HSV-1 in some populations.