What are cold sores?
Cold sores are blisters on the lips or inner cheeks that are caused by a virus. Most commonly, they are caused by HSV-1, but they can sometimes be caused by HSV-2.
Cold sores are contagious and can be transmitted from person to person through kissing or sharing liquids.
Signs and symptoms include:
Painful blister-like lesions on the lip(s) or inner surface of the cheek(s).
While there is no cure, treatment of outbreaks can be managed as follows…
- Some antiviral medications can help decrease the duration of symptoms
- There are some topical medications such as lidocaine that can help improve pain
- Use all medications as prescribed
- Avoid exchanging saliva with other people until your lesions have crusted over
See a doctor in person if…
- This is your first suspected episode of cold sores
- You have lesions in places other than your lips or mouth
- You have a fever
- You have chills
Check in with K if…
- You’re not feeling better within 3-4 days. If that happens, come back so we can re-evaluate your treatment plan.
- Try to avoid:
- Stress as much as possible
- Weather extremes, if possible
- Sun exposure
- Some people who have frequent outbreaks may be candidates for chronic suppressive therapy (medication taken every day to prevent outbreak). You can talk to your primary care doctor about whether this might be right for you.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.