What Causes Cold Sores?

Cold sores, those itching, burning, often painful lesions that appear on the skin generally around your mouth. How did you get them? The cause of cold sores is relatively consistent but the triggers and how each of our bodies deal with them vary by individual. Since it is estimated that just under half of people in the US aged 14-49 have the virus that causes cold sores, its important to understand the potential triggers and treatment option availble to those who suffer.

What caused my cold sore?

The source of your cold sore is most likely something you contracted a while ago which may not have caused any symptoms at that time. Most commonly, cold sores are a symptom of the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 which which is transmitted by close contact (touching & kissing) and thrives in mucosal membranes. After getting your first cold sore, your body produces anti-bodies and many people will never have another outbreak while others will get them repeatedly. You may not suffer an outbreak until up to 20 days of being infected.

A case of mistaken identity

Another virus that can cause bumps on your lips is the human papilloma virus. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates there are more than 100 strains of this virus just on the mouth and lips. This virus causes warts, which can be mistaken for cold sores. You’ll know the difference if after about two weeks, the bump is still there. Warts can take one-to-two years to disappear. If symptoms worsen or last more than 7 days, talk to your doctor.

There’s also confusion between cold sores and canker sores. Location is the biggest determining factor when it comes to deciphering between these two. Cold sores appear outside of the mouth, on the lips or surrounding skin. Canker sores, which are not caused by viruses, occur exclusively inside the mouth. There are separate remedies to treat canker and cold sores, although both typically heal and disappear within two weeks. Campho-Phenique is for external use only and not for use inside the mouth.

How do I stop getting cold sores?

Bodily stress is the biggest trigger to causing an outbreak of cold sores. It’s the source, in one way or another, for all the situations where cold sores often appear. Even their name originated from catching a “cold,” which puts undue stress on your body. Major life events, big presentations at work, things that happen where you actually feel the added stress on your body are also cold sore triggers. Avoiding all of these as best you can, can decrease your chances of unsightly cold sores.

You can also lessen your chances of an outbreak by avoiding excessive sun exposure, using sunscreen on your face as well as protective lip balm and by avoiding sharing certain objects such as towels, razors, silverware, and toothbrushes with someone that currently has a cold sore.

Can I treat the cold sores I have now?

There’s no cure for cold sores. They will clear up on their own between one and two weeks. However, there is an over-the-counter solution that can combat cold sore pain and help relieve the symptoms of cold sores that constantly remind you that they are present. Campho-Phenique® Cold Sore Treatment dries out the cold sore without causing cracking. Used throughout the stages of a cold sore, Campho-Phenique’s maximum strength formula relieves pain and itching on contact.

If you’re prone to cold sore outbreaks, keeping Campho-Phenique Cold Sore Treatment in your medicine cabinet enables you to use the pain-relieving product at the first sign of a cold sore.

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