What You Should Know About Cold Sores

What are cold sores and what can you do to relieve your symptoms?

Most people who have had cold sores often know when they are about to appear. The tingling and burning sensation around the mouth is often the first indicator that a cold sore is imminent. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of Americans have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV­1), which causes cold sores. If you have cold sores then you are probably wondering more about this condition, how to treat it and what it means for your health.

What are the symptoms of cold sores?

Symptoms often stick around for about two to three weeks. Besides experiencing oral sores around the mouth, people may also experience flu­like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and fatigue. These oral sores will often appear as tiny blisters that break open and scab over.

When should I see a doctor about cold sores?

While cold sores often don’t warrant a trip to the dermatologist, there are certain times when it might be advisable. These sores can be painful, so if you find it difficult to eat or talk then you will want to talk to your doctor about the best ways to alleviate the pain to make eating easier. The last thing you want to deal with is dehydration on top of an outbreak.

If these oral sores look different from other cold sore outbreaks, then it’s also worth seeing your dermatologist to receive a proper diagnosis. Those with weakened immune systems due to chronic illness or chemotherapy should also see their dermatologist to prevent further complications.

What treatments are available for cold sores?

While many cold sores will go away without the need for treatment, if you are experiencing pain we may prescribe a topical anesthetic to reduce your discomfort. There are also over­the-counter treatments that speed up healing and reduce pain. However, for those with severe infections your dermatologist may also prescribe an oral antiviral medication.

Those with weak immune systems and those who become dehydrated as a result of cold sores may need to go to the hospital to prevent further problems and to receive oral antivirals.

While you cannot cure the virus that causes cold sores, there are certainly ways to reduce your symptoms. Talk to your dermatologist to find out more!

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