What Causes Cold Sores?

The herpes simplex virus is the main cause of cold sores. There are two types of herpes simplex virus, but the main culprit for these fever blisters is Type 1. This type affects the body tissues that are found above the waistline.

Most viral infections are caused by exposure to the germs themselves, but this is not one of the causes of a cold sore. It occurs, not with the recent contact with the herpes simplex virus, but with the reactivation of the HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) particles that are already in your body. These germs are already residing inside the body before being reactivated, but are then “awaken.”

Initial contact with the virus does not result in the formation of cold sores; and therefore it cannot be detected at once.

A person with cold sores would first be inflicted with fever, headache, and difficulty swallowing. The person might also be easily irritable. A day or two after these initial symptoms occur, the person will feel pain in his mouth, and the gums will be inflamed. On the third day blisters appear near the mouth or lips. The blisters will pop, over time, but the person’s mouth will remain painful it will be hard to eat.

The core sores themselves will heal over time. The infection period is between 10 to 14 days. But when the virus remains in the body, cold sores can repeat again at a later date.

Most cases of such an infection occur before the age of seven. This is why many people don’t know the causes of cold sores. Further, the majority of people who are inflicted with fever blisters (another word for cold sores) don’t even know they have them. The symptoms are subclinical, and not obvious to the normal person. The patient might only feel one or two mild sores near his mouth.

Fever usually accompanies cold sores, and the common flu virus can also reactivate the cold sore virus. Getting your skin sunburned might also trigger cold sores.

What are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are lesions on the lips or on the skin near the mouth. People can be exposed to different causes of cold sores, each and every day. They are often referred to as “fever blisters.” These lesions can be painful, and usually last for a few days. They are caused by a virus. But, unlike other viral infections, cold sores are not completely eliminated by our body’s defense system. This is the reason why they usually recur over time.

Treatments for Cold Sores

What do you do when you have cold sores? How do you treat them?

There are several basic forms of treatment that have been used in the past:

  • Lysine – An amino acid taken internally.
  • Zinc – Applied directly onto the cold sores, taken internally, or both.
  • Calcium – Taken internally to help keep the system alkaline, since many people suffering from cold sores are said to have too much acidity in their systems.
  • Ice – An old-fashioned external treatment used when one feels a cold sore coming. But using ice after the cold sore has appeared may slow the healing process.
  • Tea – Applied frozen before the cold sores burst, or warm afterwards.

More Information on Cold Sores Treatments

For a more thorough description of these treatments, please see our post on Cold Sores Treatment.

Disclaimer:  These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.  Nothing in this article or on this website constitutes medical advice – please consult your doctor if you are ill.