It might be embarrassing to have cold sores because of how uncomfortable they are and how their look fluctuates. The good news is that there are steps you can take to lessen the pain of a cold sore and that they are not dangerous medical problems.
The primary signs of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection are these swollen, fluid-filled blisters. The mouth or the area around it is where they 0typically develop, but they can also appear on the chin, cheek, or within nose.
High transmission rates and widespread occurrences of HSV-1. Kissing, sharing a drink or food container, cutlery, or lip balm with someone who has a cold sore are all examples of close intimate contact that might spread the virus.
When there are open sores, the danger of transmission is greatest. But even when there are no symptoms and the virus can appear to be harmless on the skin or in the mouth, it can still spread. Numerous HSV-1 infections are contracted in children, and the infection lasts a lifetime. There are several medicines for cold sores available over-the-counter. (OTC)
Cold Sore Stages
Stage 1: Evidential Tingling
About 24 hours before blister emergence, tingling, and itching start.
You feel a prickling sensation in this stage, especially on the lips and the area around the mouth. Other unpleasant symptoms including itching, tightness, and discomfort that may linger for 24 to 48 hours may also be present in addition to the feelings.
You might be developing a cold sore if you experience an unexplainable sensation around your mouth. When a cold sore is ready to appear on the skin’s surface, tingling is typically one of the first symptoms. The area could also itch or burn.
However, it won’t stop the sore from developing. Treating a cold sore while it is still in the tingling stage may lessen its intensity and persistence. The most helpful form of treatment at this point is an oral medicine. Additionally, the drug can be taken every day to stop or lessen breakouts.
You can take over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) if this phase of the cold sore is uncomfortable or severe. Relief may also be obtained with creams containing lidocaine or benzocaine.
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Stage 2: Blister Breakout
Blisters that are filled with fluid start to form.
A cold sore blister may emerge around your mouth or lips within 48 hours, though they can occur anywhere on the face, including the area around your nose. As the blister grows on a cold sore, the lip swells. A cluster of tiny, liquid-filled lumps encircled by red, inflamed skin may be the appearance of the blister. The bumps could spread and increase in number, and they might be uncomfortable.
Using over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help you relieve pain and discomfort. As an alternative, local anesthetic lotions containing benzocaine or lidocaine momentarily block nerve signals in your skin to temporarily numb pain and eliminate itching. Never squeeze a blister because doing so might cause scarring and aid in the spread of the virus.
Once they emerge on the skin’s surface, cold sores can quickly spread. Do not share food or liquids while you are sick; instead, wash your hands with warm, soapy water after touching the affected region. Use caution when kissing or engaging in oral sex because it can also spread the infection. Until the blisters are entirely gone, you should avoid having any close encounters.
Stage 3: Weeping
The sores become painful when the blisters break, ooze, or both.
Because the blisters rupture and leave open sores, this stage of the cold sore might be the most painful. A red ring of inflammation may also be visible surrounding the injured area. When your cold sore is in this stage, which is the most contagious, be careful not to share surfaces with others until the sore has fully recovered and vanished.
Soon after it appears on the surface of your skin, the cold sore will erupt, frequently in a few days. Red and shallow sores indicate an open wound. This is the period when they are most contagious. If you haven’t done so previously, think about using an oral or topical painkiller to assist manage your symptoms.
Additionally, you could apply a hot or cold compress. Keep your hands off the sores. The issue could get worse or spread if you pick at it. A bacterial skin infection may also result from it. Avoid handling contagious sores, and always wash your hands after using the cream on them or before touching your eyes, genitalia, or other regions where the skin has ruptured.
Do not kiss or engage in any sexual activity, and refrain from sharing cutlery or toothbrushes, as well as other personal things that may have come into touch with your saliva. The HSV-1 virus spreads quickly and easily. It can spread from person to person by skin-to-skin contact or through the moist inner skin that lines the mouth, eyes, or genitalia.
Most of the time, the virus only results in a minor infection, but it can be far more dangerous for babies and those who already have compromised immune systems. If it gets to the transparent inner layer of your cornea, which is at the front of your eye, and is untreated, it could also be dangerous to your vision.
Stage 4: Formation of the Scab
Itching and cracking are brought on by the sores as they scab over and dry up.
Your ruptured blister will get dry and develop into a yellow-brown scab. Despite being unattractive, this is a sign that your cold sore is starting to heal.
Your lip may develop excruciatingly painful, bleeding cracks as the scab contracts. The area could feel tight, itchy, or painful. Try using a lotion or balm with protectants like glycerin, allantoin, petrolatum, cocoa butter, or allantoin to relieve discomfort.
When outdoors, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. As UV light is a common trigger for cold sores in many individuals, sunscreen protects your lips while the sore heals and could also help you avoid getting them again.
Stage 5: Healthy Healing
Cold sores recover when the scab comes off.
The healing stage is the last one before the cold sore disappears. The crusted blister then scabs over at this point. Use emollients that contain zinc oxide or aloe vera to keep the scab moist and lessen inflammation. The scab will flake away and gradually disappear. In most cases, cold sores do not leave scars.
There may be some lingering swelling in the area when your scab begins to flake off. When the scab and flakiness disappear and healthy skin is revealed underneath, the cold sore is fully recovered. Usually, cold sores do not leave scars.
Maintaining a symptom journal can help you identify the triggers for cold sores, which you can then avoid or manage to lessen your risk of developing them.