Cold sores or fever blisters are not canker sores. A cold sore is a sore that is a result of small blisters which rupture and merge together to form a large and irregular sore that often exudes fluid. They most often occur on the outside of the lips or nostrils but can also occur on the inside of the mouth on the gums, cheeks or roof of the mouth. They usually heal in 7 to 14 days while covered in a scab.
Cause s of Cold Sores
By far the most common cause of cold sores is the Herpes virus simplex 1 or simplex 2. This virus is highly contagious and very common. Oral herpes is spread through contact with the cold sores and the contaminated fluids usually through kissing. Transmission can happen even if cold sores are not present, although this is less likely. This is because the virus is still present, it is just inactive. During this phase, the virus usually retreats to the trigeminal ganglion, which is a nerve pathways located in the upper cheek near the temple. When the person suffers a stressful situation and the immune system is slightly compromised, the virus will become active again and travel back to the initial site of infection where the cold sore will develop.
If a person is exposed to Herpes, it usually takes about 2 to 20 days before the first symptoms can appear. The first time is often the worst episode and the person can suffer from a very sore mouth, difficulty eating, fever, fatigue and a general feeling of being ill. After this episodes usually become milder because the body knows the virus and is prepared to fight it.
Cold Sore Triggers
Infection with Herpes is permanent. There is no cure, yet an infected person does not always have cold sores. Usually these cold sores are triggered by stress. This stress can be associated with illness, exposure to the elements, menstrual period, or health procedures such as dental treatment.
Cold sores can be soothed with a drying or soothing agent such as Orabase, Blistex or Anbesol for sores located on the outside of the mouth. Apply with a cotton swab instead of your hands. Avoid spicy, salty or acidic foods which may aggravate the sore. Ice or non-prescription pain medication can help with any associated discomfort or pain.
To prevent transmitting the virus, infected people should wash their hands often and try to avoid touching their face or scratching the area. They should also avoid kissing and oral sex because this can transfer the disease to the genitals and result in genital herpes. People with cold sores should also avoid sharing glasses or silverware with others.
So, the answer to the question "Are cold sores contagious?" is yes they are because they are caused by a virus that is highly contagious and very common.