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Oral Herpes


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Oral herpes is an infection of your mouth and lips caused by the Herpes Simplex virus 1 (HSV 1). About 80% of the infectious cases are attributed to HSV 1 and rest to HSV 2, which is very rare. Oral herpes is also known as Herpes labialis and cold sores.


How the infection occurs?

HSV 1 is highly contagious and it gets transmitted via the mucus membranes, saliva, pus and skin. A healthy individual will immediately get oral herpes on coming in contact with an infected person.

Children between age group of 1-2 years are highly vulnerable to oral herpes, yet anyone can get oral herpes at any point of life. It mainly spreads though kissing and touching the sores. Some more trigger factors for oral herpes are intense sunburn of lips or around mouth, fever, menstruation in women, emotional stress, oral or dental injury, excessive physical exertion, etc.


Symptoms of oral herpes

The incubation period of the virus is between 2-12 days during which the symptoms will develop.

  •  Itching in and around mouth and lips
  •  Eruption of fluid filled blisters with red base
  •  Painful sores inside mouth, gum, tongue, lining of cheeks, lips, etc.
  •  Swollen gums, bleeding from gum
  •  Foul smell from mouth, increase in saliva from mouth
  •  Swollen lymph nodes around neck
  •  Difficulty in swallowing and drinking
  •  Flu like symptoms- headache, fever, general illness

The fluid filled blisters break open and form a yellow crust or scab which falls off after 7 days. The painful sores last in your oral sphere for 10 -14 days. This happens during the primary stage of the infection.

During the latent stage of infection, the virus resides in your body but in inactive form. The sores reappear when the virus becomes active once again.


When to see a doctor

Oral herpes is a painful condition that should not be neglected. Check with your doctor if you observe blisters and sores that do not go away with 2-3 days.

See your baby immediately to doctor on observing such sores.


Complications of oral herpes

There are chances that the sores might spread to genitals, eyes and fingers. It can also affect the brain and cause severe dehydration.

Although rare but in case of a severe outbreak of oral herpes in individuals with weak immune system, it might prove fatal.


Diagnosis of oral herpes

Your doctor can confirm that you are suffering from oral herpes merely by observing their characteristic appearance. In severe cases, your doctor might suggest diagnostic tests which involve viral culture, antigen-antibody test and a staining test known as Tzanck smear test. 


Treatment of oral herpes

Since it’s a viral infection your doctor will prescribe you anti-viral topical cream – acyclovir 5%. Oral medicines are not prescribed unless the patient has very weak immune system or is an infant below 6 years of age.

OTC pain killers are given to reduce pain and swelling. Your doctor might retain you in hospital and start IV drip lines if dehydration symptoms are present. Otherwise, you need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.


Self care at home

  • Do not touch, scratch or try to prick the sores and blisters
  • Wash your hands with antiseptic before touching anything and eating
  • Avoid physical contact orally like – kissing, oral sex, etc. until the sores heal completely
  • Avoid applying cosmetic creams over the affected area. Use sunscreen based lip balm before stepping out
  • Drink plenty of water, soft, cool and simple food devoid of spices

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: October 14, 2014

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