Known as fever blisters, cold sores are small sores or little lesions on the face or inside the mouth. They are painful, have a burning sensation, and can be quite itchy before they burst and crust over. They mostly appear on the lips, chin, cheeks, inside the nostrils, and less frequently on the gums or the palate.
Caused by the herpes simplex viruses, sores are commonly found around the mouth and this is herpes simplex type 1, or HSV-1. Less common are cold sores caused by HSV-2 (herpes simplex type 2), which result from oral sex with a person who has genital herpes.
Some mistake canker sores for cold sores. Canker sores are small ulcer craters in the lining of the mouth. They are also painful and known as aphthous ulcers. Unlike cold sores, they occur in the soft tissue of the mouth.
While cold sores are common there is no cure for them, and they cannot be prevented. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce their frequency and duration.
What causes cold sores?
HSV-1 is passed on during early stages of childhood, when a child is kissed by a person who already has a cold sore. Even sharing eating utensils, bathroom items like towels and razors can spread the infection. The virus goes straight to the nervous system and then stays dormant until something triggers it and activates it.
Mental stress, deep sadness, injury to the affected area, menstruation and intense sunlight are a few things that trigger off the HSV-1 virus.