A cold sore, which has a medical name of herpes labialis, is a medical condition caused by the virus herpes simplex, particularly its HSV-1 strain or its HSV-2 strain. The virus doesn’t manifest for some time even after infection, so cold sores may happen a few days after infection. It starts as a feeling of itching and burning in the mouth, followed by the appearance of fluid-filled sores on the edges of the lower lip. This will be accompanied by a sore throat, and usually swollen glands. One may also experience halitosis and the sores may even develop into grey or yellow-centered ulcers. In children, a cold sore is accompanied by swelling and irritation of the gums, high temperature or fever, dehydration, headaches, and nausea or a feeling of being sick. Cold sores may come back time after time, becoming recurrent infections.
To treat cold sores, one can purchase over the counter medication at stores and apply them as soon as the first signs of cold sores appear, which will maximize their effectiveness. This medication is available in the form of creams, tablets, and patches. There are antiviral creams like acyclovir and penciclovir which heal current sores and speed up their healing process. However, even without treatment, there is a chance cold sores may clear after a week. Cold sore patches contain hydrocolloid, a gel that is commonly used in surgical dressings, and are placed over the sore area during the healing process. For more severe cases, antiviral tablets are usually prescribed. To alleviate the pain and irritation, one can use painkillers.
People with weakened immune systems should have their cold sore checked and treated. This is because they run the risk of the infection spreading to the eyes, or even worse, the brain, which may develop into encephalitis.