Coleslaw? Did someone say coleslaw? No.
What are cold sores?
- Cold sores are infections caused by a virus known as Herpes simplex type I.
What do they look like?
- Tiny ulcers that most commonly erupt around the lips and nostrils.
- Early signs of an attack include a tingling sensation in the area where the sore will develop.
- The skin then becomes inflamed, blisters begin to form and finally burst. Often this can lead to painful ulcers, or scabs.
- An attack can last for eight to 12 days, with more tingling every time a new crop arrives.
Where do they come from?
- Herpes simplex type I is highly contagious when cold sores are present. It is generally transmitted via skin-to-skin contact (i.e. kissing) or through saliva.
- Once the virus is in your body, its there forever. Up to 80% of the UK adult population has been exposed to infection at some point.
- Most of the time the virus lies dormant, but can quickly come to life when your immune system is weakened by illness.
- Most people suffer one attack, and then never see another cold sore. For others, cold sores are a fact of life. They may experience four to five episodes each year.
- Other cold sore triggers include sudden climate changes, stress, strong sunlight, menstruation and certain foods or medication.
How can I deal with them?
- Cold sores can be treated with antiviral cream or liquids, such as Acyclovir. See your GP or pharmacist for further advice.
- If antiviral treatment is applied as soon as tingling is felt, it may completely prevent the sore appearing, or reduce the severity of the attack.
- If attacks are severe and return frequently, antivirals can be given in pill form.
- Sufferers may also find that applying sunscreen to prone areas may cut down the chances of an outbreak.
- During an attack, sufferers should avoid kissing, or sharing cups and cutlery. Wash hands thoroughly after touching the affected area, and do not rub your eyes as this can transfer the virus.
- Oral sex should also be avoided, as the virus might be transmitted to the genitals.
Read the comment policy
Use our free question and answer service and speak to an expert!