Cold sores can be so persistent, lasting for a week or more. The sores are small, fluid-filled ulcers that appear on the lips, around the mouth and nose. Anybody can get cold sores, most people do contract the virus that causes cold sores through physical contact with an affected person. Once you are infected with the virus responsible for cold sores, the virus will stay permanently in your body for the rest of your life, hiding until they are triggered.
However, cold sores being caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) is very contagious. It can be easily transmitted through body contacts or sharing of eating utensils, towel, personal items and oral care equipments. Well, cold sores progress through 5 stages. If you’re experiencing your first outbreak, within this period of time, you may have fluid-filled blisters as well as flu-like symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches.
So, the best approach to treating a cold sore is to attack it early before it can even be seen. This involves having the right medications on hand so they can be used at the earliest sign of a sore. There are safe and effective ways to help stop the progression of cold sores and also avoid spreading them to others.
Cold sores stages
Cold sores stages and symptoms can vary depending on whether or not this is your first case or a recurrence. The first infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the most severe because the body has yet to build up its defenses to the virus. Here are the five stages of cold sores:
1. Cold sores stage 1
Within the first two days of cold sores outbreak, most people experience tingling, burning, or itching around their lips for several hours before the cold sore appears at that particular area. This stage is actually the best time to begin treating the cold sore. During this period, topical antiviral medication can be applied directly at the area. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe some oral medications that you can take by mouth. These medications can stop the cold sore from developing or may reduce its size and healing time. (1)
2. Cold sores stage 2
Between the second to the fourth day, small hard, fluid-filled blisters begin to form on the lips, nose, cheeks, or other parts of the face. This is the result of the virus waking up, multiplying, and the body beginning to fight back. If by any chance a blister develop near the eyes, it’s necessary to make an appointment with a doctor immediately as soon as possible. At this point, you can still stop the virus from replicating by using antiviral medications.
3. Cold sores stage 3
With the day 4 and 5 of an outbreak, the blisters may merge together and burst, resulting in small, open sores that ooze fluid and may be very painful. At this stage, the blisters and fluid are extremely contagious, so it’s important to avoid close physical contact with others. The blisters can even spread to other locations on your body if you touch the sores and then touch another body part without washing your hands.
The eyes are easily infected at this period, when the eyes gets infected, you may experience symptoms such as sensitivity to light, pain, or grittiness in the eyes. As more days passes, the exposed and ulcerated sores will begin to scab over as the body enters the healing process. (2)
4. Cold sores stage 4
Around the day 5 to 8 of an outbreak, the open sores will begin to dry out and scab. These scabs are often very itchy and can even crack and bleed. Biting or picking at these scabs can worsen the discomforts and cause them to bleed more.
5.Cold sores stage 5
After some few days after the formation of the scabs, the scabs will begin to peel off. For most people, this occurs 8-10 days from onset of symptoms. After the scabs fall off, you may notice that the skin underneath the area is pink or reddish in color. However, while the cold sores scabs are still healing, you should be careful not to infect others. Avoid having close contacts with children, don’t let the sores touch anyone who has a weakened immune system, don’t kiss anyone or share your food, drinks, or personal items until the cold sores have healed completely.
Cold sore is very contagious, at the earliest stage, tingling , burning, or itching sensations are usually felt around the lips or face before the cold sore appears. The blisters can burst at anytime resulting in small, open sores that ooze fluid. It’s very important that you should avoid close physical contact with others. The virus responsible for cold sores, can be easily transmitted to other people or spread to other locations on the body by touching.
However, topical antiviral medications have been proved to be very effective in treating cold sores. Although, they work best when used as early as possible before the cold sore can even be seen. Finally, antiviral medications are not suitable for every one, you should let your doctor know before taking any medication for cold sores.
In most cases, people do mistake other mouth lesions to be cold sores. Check here to see – photos showing how cold sores look like.
Image source – orajel.com