What Are the Symptoms of a Cold Sore?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Cold sores are the resulting infection that comes from the herpes simplex virus; once this occurs, the virus tends to stay in the body for the rest of an individual's life, often making these sores a relatively common appearance. The symptoms of a cold sore usually begin with an itching, burning, or tingling feeling on the location where the sore will eventually appear, such as around the mouth or nostrils. A person might also get a sore throat and swollen glands. Soon, a small fluid-filled blister, or grouping of blisters, will appear. Usually, they will dry up and disappear within ten days to two weeks.

The initial symptoms, known as the prodrome, include a slight tingling or burning that happens a day or two before the actual blisters show up. Some people also experience itching or even slight pain. This occurs most frequently around the lips or the corners of the mouth, but it can also appear on the nostrils or inside the mouth, though this isn't as common. Putting medication on the area at the first indication of a cold sore can be helpful at preventing it from worsening.

Some people experience other symptoms throughout the body. A low fever, swollen glands in the neck, and a sore throat are not uncommon. Some people may find that the mouth feels sore, or that they experience some aches and pains in the body. These symptoms too will usually disappear when the actual sores appear.


The final symptoms occur when a blister, or frequently a group of blisters, appears on the mouth or nose. These blisters will be raised, red, and fluid-filled. After a few days, they will begin to dry up, and will soon just appear as a slightly reddened mark on the face, which will eventually disappear. Typically, a cold sore will not cause a scar.

People who are prone to this problem may get sores repeatedly throughout the year, sometimes three or four times or more. Some events can trigger the virus, such as another illness in the body, a period of high stress, or too much exposure to the sun. It is certainly possible to spread the herpes virus to others, so it is important for anyone experiencing the symptoms to learn ways to avoid spreading it.


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Post 1

Though this article says that cold sores do not cause scars, it is important not to pick at them. Though the urge is hard to resist, disturbing them as they heal could lead to small scars because the skin around the mouth is so delicate. There are also several cold sore medicines available from a health care provider that can help to speed up the healing process.

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