Dealing with Cold Sores and Fever Blisters

Fun in the summer sun can cause unpleasant side effects such as cold sores and fever blisters. Brought on by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), cold sores and fever blisters are transmitted from person to person by saliva or by skin contact. With cold sores, you generally develop clusters of tiny blisters on the lip. Most people are exposed to HSV-1 before age 10. After the first infection, the virus remains inactive until stress, illness, or sun exposure causes a new outbreak.

During the first exposure, you may have headache, nausea, fever, and/or vomiting. Patients may also have painful swelling and open mouth sores. Most of the time, cold sores or fever blisters appear on the edges of your lips. Usually, these outbreaks start with tingling or burning followed by swelling or redness. One or more blisters will typically appear within 24 to 48 hours.

Initial symptoms can last for 7 to 14 days. When the cold sores or blisters reappear, they generally crust over in about four days and then heal within 10 days. You may want to visit your doctor or dentist the first time you develop cold sores or fever blisters, but after that, you shouldn’t need medical attention. Keep the area clean and apply topical medication to lessen symptoms as well as promote healing.

Preventing a first infection for loved ones involves making sure that no one with an active fever blister kisses your kids or other family members. Sunscreen can help protect your lips from cold sores brought on by too much time in the sun.

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