What is Herpes?
Oral herpes outbreaks, cold sores or fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1), which is contracted by 90% of adults by age 50. Many people who carry HSV-1 do not have any symptoms, and can still spread the virus. However, for some, symptoms can be severe and may require treatment.
What Causes Herpes?
Direct contact to a mouth with the virus is needed to catch it. While herpes is known for being a sexually transmitted infection, kissing someone with the virus can also spread it. The herpes virus cannot survive for long on objects, such as shared cups, straws or lipstick.
After the herpes virus is contracted, never many do not show any symptoms, while others have mild or vague symptoms. Cold sore outbreaks initially start as pain or tingling on the lip, then form unsightly, painful, red blisters. Eventually, the blisters pop, ooze, crust over and flake off before they resolve within one to two weeks.
A weakened immune system is the most common trigger of cold sore outbreaks, such as fatigue, stress, excessive sun exposure and illnesses. Lasers, chemical peels or cosmetic treatments near the mouth may also trigger herpes outbreaks, so it is important to inform your provider before procedures.
- Oral anti-viral pills (acyclovir, valacyclovir): treat and prevent cold sore outbreaks
- Topical anti-viral creams: over-the-counter (Abreva) and prescriptions can shorten the cold sores duration