Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), cold sores are highly contagious at all stages of development. Even if you can’t see a cold sore, it is still infectious. This is very important to know when managing healing as well as interaction with others.
If your current experience with a cold sore outbreak is your first, you likely have many questions. While healing and treatment are very important, understanding the virus is even more so.
Just the slightest break in the skin, either in or near your mouth, can be prime real estate for HSV-1. Spread through cold sore infected fluids, any exchange of saliva from person-to-person can prompt an eventual outbreak. It is not uncommon for a parent to infect a child simply through basic acts of traditional affection.
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Cold sores are considered active and contagious as soon as the initial symptoms commence. Hallmarked by itching, tingling, and even pain, these symptoms usually occur a full 24-48 hours before a visible blister appears.
From the prodrome, or inception period, until fully scabbed, cold sores are contagious. During this vital period, it is wise to assume that HSV-1 can be spread. The duration of most cold sores (contagious HSV-1) is typically 7-10 days. However, that timeframe is quite subjective.
Once HSV-1 has entered your body, it can take as many as 20 days for an actual sore to develop. It is also important to note that most sores develop on or near the area where the virus was initially acquired. Because the virus typically enters a crack on your lip or mouth, your first sore will likely be near the initial entry location.
Various actions, either directly or indirectly, can prompt an outbreak. Often referred to as triggers, the HSV-1 virus can be awakened by internal and external influences.
Although most cold sore symptoms are quite straightforward, they can impact sufferers in different ways. This is especially true if you are in the midst of your first outbreak.
As briefly noted earlier, the most common initial symptom often comes in the form of a lip tingle or itch. Likely a source of annoyance at first, cold sores never make a grand entrance. Minor lip discomfort is typically the first symptom of HSV-1.
While symptoms around the lip and mouth region are to be expected, other signs can appear. It is not uncommon for new HSV-1 sufferers to complain of headaches and fever. A sore throat and swollen neck glands can also be an early symptom of an outbreak.
Listed below are the most documented signs of a developing cold sore.
Although cold sores can become contagious even before an actual blister appearing, some stages are more contagious than others.
While a given stage might last longer for some, the overall healing process of a cold sore is relatively the same. Complete healing of a blister can take two to four weeks. Having said that, the scab stage, resulting in total coverage, is typically the end of transmission concerns.
Noted below is the usual sequence of a cold sore from start to finish.
It is vital to note that your first outbreak will be the most painful. If you suffer a recurrence, it will potentially occur in the same area but heal faster and with less pain.
Although various triggers can cause HSV-1 to awaken, how can you prevent the virus altogether? While there will never be a foolproof way to protect yourself, you can take specific responsible measures.
Does a family member, friend, or spouse have a cold sore? If so, here are a few steps to take if they are still contagious.
One of the best ways to shorten the healing time of a cold sore is through action. You can potentially reduce your episode by several days by simply being proactive.
With a variety of tablets, creams, cover ups, and medicated chapsticks, the choices are endless. Personal preference, rather than availability, will likely be your only concern.
Listed below are just a few of the most popular and effective products available.
It is important to understand how HSV-1 operates. In a dormant stage more times than not, flare-ups mean something. Not only visually but also regarding the virus.
If you or someone you know has a cold sore, it is best to assume the virus can be transmitted. The only safe shelter is a clear lip with no symptoms. Cold sores do not have to erupt, ooze, and appear grotesque for them to be contagious.
You are encouraged to live your life, have fun, but simply be alert. There will never be a true way to hide from viruses. The best anyone can do is be vigilant and start using an OTC cold sore treatment if needed.