Cold sores are painful red blisters that occur on or around the mouth, and are caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2. HSV type 1 is the most common cause of cold sores. HSV type 2 usually causes genital herpes, but it can also cause cold sores.
Cold sores and Newborn Babies
Cold sores are very dangerous for young babies. If you think you have a coldsore and you have a new born baby, do not kiss your baby and wash your hands before touching your baby. Further information is available at HSE Website.
Cold sores in Older Babies and Children
Some children develop a primary infection, presenting with inflammation and ulceration of the mouth and gums. The skin around the mouth may be affected and there may be swollen lymph glands, high temperature and loss of appetite Read more here on the HSE Website.
After the primary oral infection, HSV may remain inactive only to be activated later as the more common herpes labialis, or “cold sores”. Triggers for reactivation are well known and include sunlight, trauma, tiredness, stress, and menstruation. An episode of “cold sores” usually begins with a burning sensation on the affected area of the lips, which is usually followed by the development of painful blisters. The appearance of “cold sores” is a well-localised cluster of small vesicles along the red border of the lip or adjacent skin. The vesicles rupture, ulcerate, and crust within one to two days and heal within seven to 10 days.
Prevention is difficult, although the use of sun barrier creams will help reduce attacks in those holidaying in the sun. Also, a well-established product on the market (containing 5% w/w acyclovir), if applied during the early burning phase of cold sores, has been shown to be effective in reducing the duration of the episode.
How can you prevent cold sores?
Avoid coming into contact with infected body fluids, such as kissing an infected person and sharing eating utensils, drinking cups, or other items that a person with a cold sore may have used.
After you have been infected with the virus, there is no sure way to prevent more cold sores. Cold sores are contagious and strict hygiene measures should be adopted when a person is infected. Here are some things you can do to reduce your number of outbreaks and prevent spreading the virus.
- Avoid the things that trigger your cold sores, such as stress, colds or the flu.
- Always use lip balm and sunscreen on your face. Too much sunlight can cause cold sores to flare.
- Avoid sharing toothbrushes, toothbrushes, towels, razors, cutlery, cups or other objects that a person with a cold sore may have used.
- When you have a cold sore, make sure to wash your hands often, and try not to touch your sore. This can help keep you from spreading the virus to your eyes or genital area or to other people.
- Talk to your doctor if you get cold sores often. You may be able to take prescription pills to prevent cold sore outbreaks.
- Also, a well-established product on the market (containing 5% w/w acyclovir), if applied during the early burning phase of cold sores, has been shown to be effective in reducing the duration of the episode.