Cold Sore Fact vs Myth Module

Fact or Myth

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There's nothing I can do about cold sores.

It is common to have itching and burning/tingling before a cold sore appears.

Early treatment of cold sores can reduce pain associated with lesions and the time to healing.

Cold sores are a one-time thing.

Cold sores do not have a cure.

Cold sores are unpredictable and uncontrollable.

Cold sores are not contagious.

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This is a myth

This is a fact.

Recurrent Cold sores are formed due to the reactivation of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Our body's immune system fight the virus by causing inflammation, this response results in the cold sore symptoms such as redness, swelling, and pain while the virus is being cleared. These symptoms can remain for about one week after the virus can no longer be detected. There are prescription medications available to help stop the virus from multiplying and may help reduce the inflammation, both of which in turn can help speed healing. Find out more about the various medications.

Between 46% and 60% of people notice symptoms 24 hours or less before the actual appearance of cold sores. This period is referred to as the prodromal phase, or prodrome. You may notice symptoms such as inflammation, itching, burning/tingling, and altered sensations at the area where the sores will form. Early recognition and treatment are key to getting the most from your medication to limit the impact of the cold sores. Speak to your doctor about what you can do when you first notice the prodrome symptoms.

The virus replicates very rapidly during the first 24 to 28 hours of a reactivation, when you may not yet notice any actual pustules. Since the purpose of treatment is to decrease the amount of virus so as to shorten the duration of symptoms and speed up healing, it is important to start treatment as soon as possible to limit the viral growth. For more severe or frequent breakouts, talk to your physician to see if they can help manage these episodes. Doctors can give you a prescription for antiviral medications to be used when you notice the first signs to reduce the impact of cold sores and help them go away faster.

Cold sores are a common ailment, and about 90% of American adults have been exposed to the virus that causes them. Every year 1.6 people out of 1000 will have their first cold sore, and about 2.5 people in 1000 people per year will have or have had a cold sore.. Approximately one-third of all infected people will experience a recurrent episode - they'll get a cold sore again. Recurrence may be influenced by your age, immune status, genetic make-up, and site of infection. Things like exposure to UV light (from sun), fever, stress, and menstruation can all cause cold sores to flare up. Recurrent cold sores may be frequent, painful, long-lasting, and disfiguring. Knowing your treatment options can help you take back control.

Infection with the virus that causes cold sores often occurs at an early age, and the virus remains dormant in the nerves until a flare-up. There is no cure for herpes - there's no way to completely eradiate infection - but there are definitely medications (both prescription and over the counter) that can help manage the symptoms and help speed up healing. Find out more about the various options available to you.

Cold sores may appear unpredictable, but there are definitely triggers that can cause a flare-up to occur. These may include exposure to ultraviolet light, fever, infections, stress, and menstruation. Sometimes, they can even be triggered by dental procedures, trauma to the lips, or skin procedures such as face peels. Knowing your triggers can help you help reduce recurrence or impact through such measures as wearing sunscreen or applying timely treatment. Having effective treatment on hand together with knowing your personal triggers can help you better manage any breakouts. Talk to your doctor about your triggers and treatment options.

The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) that causes cold sores is highly contagious and can be transmitted by contact with active lesions and through respiratory droplets and contaminated objects such as utensils. When you're having a cold sore episode, remember to use proper hand hygiene and to avoid kissing other individuals and sharing utensils, so you don't give it to anyone else. Talk to your doctor about what precautionary measures you can take to prevent transmitting cold sores to loved ones.