2 MINUTES ON... Cold sores.
Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD
What are they?
These are small blisters that develop on your lips or around your mouth.
What are the symptoms?
A tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth, then small, fluid-filled sores will appear.
What causes cold sores?
The herpes simplex virus, HSV-1, is responsible, but in rare cases, they can also be caused by the type 2 virus (HSV-2), when someone with genital herpes has oral sex.
Herpes simplex virus
The herpes simplex virus is highly contagious and can be easily passed on by direct contact. The virus will remain inactive for most of the time, but every so often will be activated by certain triggers such as fatigue, an injury or, in women, their period.
Treating cold sores
They usually clear up without treatment within seven to 10 days but there are antiviral creams available over the counter. These treatments should be applied at the first signs of a cold sore - when you feel the tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth.
Cold sore patches are also available that contain hydrocolloid gel, an effective treatment for skin wounds. Antiviral tablets may be prescribed for severe cases.
Complications of cold sores
Dehydration can occur if drinking fluids becomes painful. The virus can also spread to other parts of your body causing painful sores called whitlows on your fingers.
Cold sores are most contagious when they burst and will remain contagious until they're healed, so avoid close contact with others.
When to visit your GP
Visit your GP if you think you or your child has become infected with the virus for the first time, or if the cold sores have not healed after seven to 10 days.