Understand the Cold Sore Symptoms: Primary & Recurrent Infection

Cold sore symptoms are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Most people tend to get the virus very early in life, often as a child, but don’t realize that they have it until the condition starts to flare up many years later. They can’t currently be cured, but it can be eased if you choose the right treatment. They’re a very common condition and easy to diagnose, even without medical training.

Given that cold sores are viral, they are contagious and can easily be spread to others. The mouth is the most likely area to become infected. This is because the skin is softer and more penetrable, meaning that it’s easier to get through the protective layer. Skin on other parts of your body tends to be harder and far more resilient. The majority of people get HSV-1 by kissing someone as a child, but don’t realize until they’re infected.

The symptoms of a cold sore vary, depending upon whether it’s a primary or recurrent infection. Here’s why they’re so different:

  • A primary infection is the first time you get HSV-1, and is the worst experience.
  • Recurrent infection means that it will return throughout your adult life.

About 80% of adults have antibodies in their blood that help to combat HSV-1, so the chances of recurrent infection are only 1 in 5. Most people experience the symptoms of a cold sore around the mouth, lips, nose or cheeks. These are highly-visible places, which can be embarrassing.

First Time Cold Sore Symptoms

Cold sore symptoms vary considerably from person to person, and also based on whether it’s the first occurrence or not. If it’s a first time cold sore, you’ll probably notice that you experience other unpleasant symptoms.

List of Symptoms of a Cold Sore

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Aching muscles
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sores around the mouth
  • Swollen lympth glands.
  • Difficulty eating food and drinking liquids.

Note: Make sure that you consume sufficient water each day to avoid dehydration. Symptoms of primary cold sores tend to last for longer.

Reactions to a First Occurrence Vary

Not everyone will experience such a strong reaction when they’re infected, but an awareness of what might happen is always useful. You may find that your body is resilient and fights off the symptoms by producing antibodies. This makes it significantly more difficult for the virus to develop, so the negative experience will likely be more moderate if you fall into this category.

Symptoms of Recurrent Cold Sores

Most people experience prodrome. This means that you will identify recognizable symptoms before it becomes visually evident. The most common cold sore symptoms are a tingling feeling or itching sensation. Others may experience a burning or feeling of numbness a few hours or days before there are any of the more obvious visual signs of a cold sore.

You’ll notice that small blisters that are filled with fluid start to appear around the edge of your mouth, referred to as gingivostomatitis. You may find that these ulcers and blisters are quite painful, making chewing food and swallowing rather difficult. You may also notice swelling in your neck area. This is the most unpleasant cold sore stage because the virus is at the height of its powers.

Oozing, crusting, and scabbing are commonplace once the virus has taken hold, but they’re also the final stage. It’s important to note that it can continue to spread until each sore is completely covered by a scab.  It will then revert to a dormant state.

How Long Do Cold Sores Last?

Cold sores flare up every now and again, but will normally disappear after a period of 7 to 10 days. They can last for longer if it’s a more severe case, such as a primary infection. If it lasts for a significantly longer period of time, it’s unlikely that you have HSV-1 and may have another medical condition.

If you apply the best over the counter cold sore medicine, it will relieve the symptoms and help to prevent it from spreading, but won’t reduce the period of suffering. It tends to appear in the same place every time, and can often grow in size. The virus hides away in a nerve sheath in a dormant state until eventually surfacing.

The weaker your immune system, the more likely it is to occur and the longer recovery will take. Living a healthy lifestyle and getting plenty of sleep will help your recovery. Cold sores definitely thrive when you’re run down and fatigued.

Although it’s not attractive, cold sores ‘normally’ go away without causing any permanent scarring. Just avoid touching or picking at the scabs. And you can also alleviate the symptoms with an effective treatment, such as Super Lysine Plus ointment. Always keep a tube of ointment in your medical cabinet in case you need a fast-acting remedy. Treatments are inexpensive and can normally be picked up for under 10 bucks. You can also read more about Lysine for cold sores in this post.

Cold Sore Symptoms

Preventing Cold Sores

Try to avoid touching the affected area because this could spread the infection to your eyes. This is known as herpetic keratoconjunctivitis. You should also be aware that cold sores can also become infected by bacteria, which would increase the longevity and level of discomfort that is experienced. If that occurs, you should consult your doctor immediately for a suitable prescription medication.

Recognizing cold sore symptoms early enables you to take action. You may be able to reduce the severity of the condition, stop it from spreading, or even prevent it from developing. Once you’ve had it a few times, it’ll become increasingly easy to identify. If you want to avoid passing the virus on to others, make sure that you don’t share towels, razors, toothbrushes, kiss anyone, and remember to wash your hands regularly. The less you touch the infected area, the less likely it is to get worse or be passed on to anyone else.