What are oral, mouth and cold sores?
Oral and mouth sores, like canker sores, are small ulcers or open sores that appear in the mouth and often make eating and talking uncomfortable. While the exact cause of most of these sores is often unknown, these oral and mouth sores are not considered to be contagious.
Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious. In most cases, people become infected with the virus in childhood. The first time a person is infected, symptoms may include mouth, lip or facial sores, sore throat, fever, aching, tiredness, problems with eating, and swollen glands. The virus then stays inactive in the body (sometimes for months or years), until an active infection occurs and cold sores result.
Cold sores are caused by Herpes simplex virus type 1, or, less often, herpes simplex type 2 (the cause of genital herpes). The virus is spread from person to person by contact with fluid from a cold sore, saliva, contact with an item that has the germs on it, or sharing food or drinks with an infected person. The blisters and open sores can spread the virus until they heal. Risk factors, including physical or emotional stress, illness, menstruation, and more, may trigger an outbreak of cold sores, but they can also recur for unknown reasons.
What are the symptoms?
Oral and mouth sores, like canker sores, are often found inside the mouth on the tongue, the roof of the mouth, or inside your cheeks. Often these sores tingle, burn, and are very painful.
Cold sores usually appear on the lips. In some cases, cold sores appear on nostrils, cheeks, or fingers. Prior to a cold sore, the skin area may feel itchy, tingly, or sensitive. A cluster of small, painful, fluid-filled blisters appear in the affected area. The blisters break and ooze. A yellow crust will form and then slough off, leaving pink skin and no scarring.
What is the treatment?
The Take Care Health Provider can evaluate your cold sores and other oral/mouth sores and ulcers to determine the course of treatment right for you. In many cases, self care can be used to successfully treat oral, mouth and cold sores. Apply ice to the affected area or use non-prescription products for cold sores to ease the discomfort of the symptoms. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your cold sores.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.