The name “cold sore” would make anyone think about a common cold, however, cold sores are nothing like a cold. Nevertheless, the main cause for a cold sore is a virus called the HSV-1 virus. As with any virus, this means cold sores are extremely contagious. The Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) can be easily transmitted by physical contact, and that includes fluids such as kissing or any other activity that includes contact with fluids. Examples of these activities are sharing a toothbrush, drinking from the same glass, and sharing forks or spoons.
It is important to make a difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is the virus that provokes cold sores which have its most notorious manifestation as eruptions in the face area, especially around the mouth. HSV-2 provoke canker sores which have its most notorious manifestations as the same kind of eruptions but around the genital area. This last virus is usually transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact or from a mother to her baby at birth.
Even though the HSV-1 is not as bad as HSV-2, it is important to highlight that it cannot be cured. After some initial treatment, the symptoms, or at least the most notorious ones, can disappear but the virus can remain dormant until something triggers it again.
The most important symptom, as well as the most notorious one, is the appearance of blisters around the face area. As mentioned above, these blisters appear mainly around the mouth area, but they can also appear near the nose and cheek and on rare occasions in other areas of the face. These blisters are filled with a fluid, and they usually last for 5-10 days. After having contact with the virus for the first time, a person could have an outbreak of these blisters as well as fever, headaches, sore throat, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These last symptoms do not always occur along with the blister’s break out.
During the blister’s breakout, there are three basic stages. The first stage is the tingling and itching stage. Within this stage, most people feel an itching and burning sensation around the area where the blister will erupt. This is before the blisters appear. The second stage is the blister stage. This is the most notorious stage because at this moment the blisters filled with fluid appear in the affected area. The last stage is the oozing and crusting stage where these blisters burst then the fluid will ooze and crust over.
Initially, a cold can have similar symptoms as the cold sores. As mentioned before, some cold sores symptoms can include, among others, headaches, sore throat, and fever. These symptoms usually show up in case of a common cold too. If the blisters have not appeared, anyone could confuse a common cold with cold sores.
Also, the way the viruses that carry these diseases can be transmitted are similar.. Sharing food, utensils, or toothbrushes, as well as kissing, transmit both viruses. However, cold sores can also be transmitted when there is direct contact with the blisters and there is contact with a non-infected area. This last situation does not occur with the common cold. Despite these similarities between the common cold and cold sores, they should not be confused as they are enormously different.
The biggest difference between cold sores and the common cold is the appearance of the fluid-filled blisters around the face area. However, there are other differences that are worth mentioning. One of these differences is that the virus that causes cold sores can never be completely healed. It is true that it is possible for the virus not to show any symptom at all but certain situations like high stress, hormonal changes, illness or extreme fatigue can trigger back the symptoms.
Another important difference is that fever, headaches, sore throat and these other symptoms that common cold and cold sores have in common do not always appear with cold sores. It is possible for them to not appear at all after the first blister outbreak. The more outbreaks a person has, the less likely to suffer from these other symptoms.
It is relevant to add that HSV-1 is very common. Most people in America get infected as children. In fact, 8 out of 10 Americans get infected before the age of 10. The problem is not so much about not getting infected but avoiding the outbreaks or treating the cold sores appropriately, so it lasts for a shorter period.
Finally, another important difference is that the medicine and/or remedies that can be used to relieve the symptoms are different. Even though in both cases over-the-counter medicine can be used as well as home remedies, these vary significantly.
The cold sore, like any other illness or disease, affects the immune system making imperative to improve and help it. A way to help the immune system is by having a diet with high vitamin E, to reduce the pain, vitamin C helps to boost white blood cells and zinc, reduces inflammation and boost the immune system. Some fruits, vegetables, and foods containing this nutrient that he recommends are:
The proper diet could help to boost the immune system. Another treatment that could complement the diet is using sunscreen to protect the skin, changing your toothbrush, because the toothbrush could be contaminated with the virus, and applying ice on the area to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. When blisters are present, it is important to not touch them because the hands could spread the virus to other parts of the body.
Natural treatments can be used with prescription medicine to fight against cold sores. It is important to see a doctor when the symptoms start to show up, for a better treatment. Some of the most popular prescribed medications for cold sore are acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.
Cold sores are caused by the virus HSV-1 which can be contagious by sharing physical contact with a person having the virus. The first symptoms of cold sore are like the regular cold symptoms with headaches or fevers, but as virus grows other signs appear as blisters. Prescribed medicine helps treat a cold sore, so it is important to always consult a doctor for the right medicine. The medicine could be complemented with natural treatments such as taking different vitamins like vitamin E and C.