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Cold Sore (Herpes)

Cold Sore (Herpes)

Typical Level of Urgency:

Low - Except if symptoms are severe

Cold sores (or fever blisters) are a common viral infection. These typically look like tiny, fluid filled blisters that tend to cluster around the lips. The fluid-filled sacs are highly infectious but once they burst, the viral particles are released the the area will form a scab before healing.

Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus (Type I or II) and are contagious even if you cannot see the sores. There is no cure for cold sores but management is aimed at alleviating symptoms. Medications can sometimes help shorten the duration of an outbreak in older individuals.

The first outbreak of cold sores can be particularly uncomfortable and symptoms may include: fever, painful gums, sore throat, headache, muscle aches or malaise, and swollen lymph nodes. Recurrent episodes are usually less severe, but it can take 2-3 weeks for the sores to clear up on their own.

Children can spread the virus easily to fingers or eyes - so keep their hands away from the affected area and wash hands frequently. Call for further evaluation with severe symptoms, sores that do not clear up within 2 weeks, eye irritation, your cold sores are frequent, or if you have a weakened immune system.

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