Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters on the mouth or nose. Commonly known as herpes labialis, they are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) through close contact with someone who has a cold sore. Sometimes cold sores are caused by herpes virus type 2 (HSV-2) as a consequence of having oral sex with someone who has genital herpes.1 Theinfection may cause great concern to the otherwise healthy patient due to psychosocial issues.
Infection usually occurs in childhood when someone kissed by a family member who has a cold sore. The virus passes through the skin, travels in a nerve and hides in the nerve root until it is activated. When the virus is activated, it travels back to the skin, causing a tingling, burning or itching sensation. Within a few hours to days, the area may become reddened and develop small fluid-filled blisters. Several of these small blisters may coalesce and form one large blister. The lesions are typically located on mucocutaneous areas of the face and may eventually erode and ulcerate, leaving wounds that are known to be difficult to treat.
Many factors such as an episode of flu, menstrual period, emotional upset, fatigue, bright sunlight and cold winds can trigger attack of cold sores. Typically an outbreak will last from three days to one week.
The following first aid treatment can be applied when cold sores are present:
1.Patel AR, Romanelli P, Roberts B, et al. Treatment of herpes simplex virus infection: Rationale for occlusion. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2007; 20(7): 408–412.
2.Spruance SL, Nett R, Marbury T, et al. Acyclovir cream for treatment of herpes simplex labialis: Results of two randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, multicenter clinical trials. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2002; 46(7): 2238–2243.
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