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Cold sores can be contagious.

Cold Sores Can Be Contagious

At least 75,000,000 people experience painful and unsightly cold sores each year. Cold sores result from exposure to the herpes simplex I virus, which is generally not sexually transmitted. The recurrent outbreaks can be triggered by various factors, such as illness, stress and environmental conditions. And according to experts, once a cold sore appears, you are contagious ... not only to others, but to yourself as well.

"When a blister emerges, you have the potential to spread the herpes virus," says Dr. Michael Siegel of the University of Maryland's Department of Oral Diagnosis. "Whether the blister is moist or crusted over, if you touch or rub the sore and then rub your eyes, your face, or even go to the bathroom, you can transport the virus and might end up with cold sores in those areas. The same holds true of spreading the virus through kissing, which is the most common means of spreading the virus."

The transplanted virus travels up a nerve ending and lies dormant there until a triggering factor causes a cold sore episode. When an outbreak occurs, a blister appears near the point of initial contact with the virus. Dr. Siegel says that a thorough washing with soap and water immediately after touching a cold sore can help to prevent the spread of infection.

Although there are no ways to totally prevent cold sores from recurring, the number of episodes can be reduced. Some prescription drugs have been shown to help in treating severe outbreaks by reducing the length and severity of the eruptions, but there have been few clinical data to indicate these drugs can actually benefit the casual cold sore sufferer.

Cold sore sufferers can also help to reduce the number of cold sore episodes they experience, according to Dr. Mark Kutcher, Chairman of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences at the School of Dentistry for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Kustcher also says that forecasting potentially stressful situations and taking steps to avoid them, can help to reduce the possibilities of an eruption. But when cold sores do erupt, despite all these efforts, both doctors warn to take care and help avoid spreading the virus.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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