Cold sores are a very common ailment, and they can be a painful thing if you don’t know how to manage them. While you may have heard different things about them, it’s important to stick to the facts. Understanding the truth about cold sores and the common misconceptions about them will help you treat them properly as well as take care of your oral health.
What are cold sores?
Cold sores, also known as cold sore blisters, are typically small, red, fluid-filled bumps found on the lip. The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the cause of cold sores and may be triggered by a cold, changes in the weather, a weak immune system, and stress and hormone levels.
You may feel a burning sensation on the lip before a hard, red, painful spot forms on it. Within a week, the blister may break, form a crust, and later ooze or drain. Cold sores are often itchy and uncomfortable. If left untreated, they can become infected, so you may develop a fever and more pain surrounding the area.
The causes of cold sores aren’t well understood, but there are some things you can do to help prevent them from forming and treat them before they become serious. Learning to distinguish the facts and the myths about them is important in keeping them at bay. Here are some popular misconceptions about cold sores:
1. Cold sores are sexually transmitted
One of the biggest myths about cold sores is that they’re only caused by sexual intercourse. This isn’t true because while the virus can be spread by either sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact, it’s possible to get the virus without any type of sexual contact. This is usually referred to as a ‘viral’ condition. A viral outbreak is often associated with an outbreak of a sore that also involves pimples, skin discoloration, and redness.
Genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), is caused by HSV-2, a strain of the herpes simplex virus. On the other hand, HSV-1 is the strain responsible for cold sores. Some conditions mimic cold sore blisters, which you can read more about in this informative post.
2. You are immune to cold sores after getting infected
While you may not show symptoms of a cold sore infection, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to it. Some people have recurring cold sores yearly, while others get it once and appear to never have them again. But some people never seem to get cold sores. So do people develop an immunity to cold sores?
A person can be asymptomatic when they’ve contracted the HSV-1 virus. When the virus becomes dormant and can’t be detected by the immune system, symptoms may not show at all.
It doesn’t mean they didn’t catch the herpes simplex virus, and it’s not an indication that a person has immunity over cold sores. The HSV-1 virus stays in your body for life and can be reactivated anytime the immune system becomes weak.
3. Cold sores cannot be treated
While this is slightly true because the cause of cold sores is a virus, there are treatments to shorten the duration, reduce the size of blisters, and prevent new outbreaks of cold sores from forming. Just like any viral infection such as a cold, your body has to fight off the virus.
For that to be possible, you need to rest more as well as eat and drink healthy while recovering. Although you can’t force your immune system to work harder, you can make it stronger and healthier so it can ward off cold sores before they have a chance to form on other parts of your body and make you sicker.
4. Children do not get cold sores
Another misconception about cold sores is that they only infect adults. For many people, their first exposure to the HSV-1 virus is during childhood.
When kids get infected with cold sores, they may develop a sore throat and fever. This is why parents, family members, and caregivers need to practice good hygiene when handling young children.
5. Cold sores have no severe complications
Although cold sores are generally not as dangerous as other viral infections, they’re highly contagious. Treatment is usually unnecessary if the body’s immune system is strong enough to fight the virus.
However, a person with a compromised immune system may develop a life-threatening infection from cold sores. Also, if the cold sores don’t heal within 10 days, it’s best to visit a medical professional for a checkup and proper diagnosis.
There’s no cure for cold sores, but there are ways to avoid getting infected. Good hygiene is an essential part of avoiding the HSV-1 virus. If you’re infected with cold sores, you need to take preventative measures and strengthen your weak immune system to prevent an outbreak.
You can take steps to make your immune system healthier by taking vitamin supplements, getting adequate exercise, and making better food choices. Arming yourself with the right information will also help you in avoiding cold sores and making the right decisions for your health.