Cold sores, or fever blisters, are a common occurrence throughout the United States. According to AidsInfo.net, approximately 45 million people are infected with HSV-1, which is about 1 out of every 5 people over the age of 12. Although they can be painful and irritating, cold sores can be managed.
Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1. This is not to be confused with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2, which causes genital herpes.
A person will most often get a cold sore or fever blister on his lip. People can also get cold sores on their nostrils, chin and fingers. A cold sore lasts from 7 to 10 days.
Most people with cold sores know when an outbreak is about to happen. They will usually get a "tingling" feeling in the area right before the sore makes its appearance. A blister forms and will break open and scab over, sometimes several times before finally healing entirely. Cold sores are always contagious, but they are the most contagious when they are broken open; this is called the "weeping" stage.
Because cold sores are caused by a virus, there is no cure. The virus will always be present in the body, even if a person does not have reoccurring outbreaks. It is false to say that because a cold sore is not present that a person is unable to pass this virus along to others, but the virus is more likely to be spread when sores are present.
Even though many people have the virus that causes cold sores, there are ways to prevent catching the virus or spreading it to others. Avoid kissing while there is an active sore. Don't share objects, such as lip balm, that touch your lips. Wash your hands often, and wear sunblock, since sun can be a trigger for an outbreak.