Cold sores are blisters which are caused by a viral infection. They are infectious and are spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. They usually appear on the face, especially around the lips but they can also develop inside the mouth or around the eyes. They can appear singly or in clusters. The first symptom to appear is usually a tingling sensation at the site where the cold sore will later develop. This area will then become red and inflamed until a painful blister appears. Over the next couple of days the blister will weep until it eventually dries up and forms a scab. Cold sores can look and feel unpleasant which can be embarrassing. Cold sores can also be associated with 'flu-like symptoms (especially the first time they appear).CausesCold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Initial infection by the virus usually occurs during childhood. The virus can lie dormant causing no symptoms at all until one of the following triggers activate the virus causing a cold sore.

  • respiratory tract infections such as colds and 'flu ¬∑Stress¬∑Feeling generally run downNatural sunlight or light from sunlampsknocks, burns, bites or cutspregnancy
  • menstrual periods in women

How To Avoid Spreading Cold Sores

  • avoid kissing people when you have a cold sorewash your hands before and after touching a cold sore or applying creamtake care when applying make-upavoid oral sex
  • leave cold sores alone: picking them can spread the virus and cause more to develop

Treatment

Cold sores usually disappear without treatment after about a week, however there are treatments available which can help to clear up an infection.An antiviral medicine containing the ingredient aciclovir, sometimes spelt 'acyclovir', can help to speed up recovery. It works by slowing down the multiplication of the virus. Aciclovir treatments are usually in cream form and can be bought over-the-counter at any pharmacy. The treatment must be applied as soon as the tingling signs appear.Other cold sore treatments have pain relief or anaesthetic properties and some contain soothing ingredients to help dry the sore and promote healing.Iodine is also said to stop the development of a cold sore if used as soon as a cold sore appears.Appling an ice cube to the cold sore can help to numb the area and relieve pain.

When To See A Doctor

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you ever have a cold sore which does not clear up, if the infection spreads towards your eyes or if you notice any sign of infection such as pus.

Additional Information

Information about colds and 'flu is also available at this pharmacy.