Cold sores, what you need to know!

Today is #NationalKissingDay - fun fact! What isn’t as fun is cold sores, so today we’re talking you through what you need to know!

Cold sores spread from person to person by close contact, such as kissing. They are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), and less commonly herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Cold sores can be contagious even if you don't see the sores. Cold sore outbreaks can be more common after an illness when the immune system is compromised, during stressful periods, after UV exposure, during menstruation, and after long flights.

There's no cure for cold sores, but treatment can help manage outbreaks. Prescription antiviral tablets can help sores heal more quickly. They are sometimes taken continuously for those with very frequent outbreaks to reduce the frequency of flares.

A cold sore usually passes through several stages:
-Tingling and itching. Many people feel itching, burning or tingling around the lips for a day or so before a small, hard, painful spot appears and blisters erupt.
-Blisters. Small fluid-filled blisters typically erupt along the border of your lips. Sometimes they appear around the nose or cheeks or inside the mouth.
-Oozing and crusting. The small blisters may merge and then burst, leaving shallow open sores that ooze and crust over.

Signs and symptoms vary, depending on whether this is your first outbreak or a recurrence. The first time you have a cold sore, symptoms may not start for up to 20 days after you were first exposed to the virus. The sores can last several days, and the blisters can take two to three weeks to heal completely.

Recurrences typically appear at the same spot each time and tend to be less severe than the first outbreak.

When to see a doctor:
Cold sores generally clear up without treatment. See your doctor if:

-You have a weakened immune system
-The cold sores don't heal within two weeks
-Symptoms are severe
-You have frequent recurrences of cold sores
-You experience irritation in your eyes or visual changes