Cold sores are more common than many people like to believe; men, women, and children can develop cold sores. The medical term for cold sores, which are also sometimes called fever blisters, is herpes type 1. There’s a good chance you’ve had cold sores yourself without knowing exactly how they are spread.
Spreading the Virus
People who have a cold sore can infect others very easily. The herpes type 1 virus is spread through direct contact with secretions from an infected person’s skin, mouth, or genitals. The virus is most contagious when a cold sore is present, but many people catch it even when a sore cannot be seen.
There are a number of activities that can spread cold sores. Sharing utensils, drinking glasses, lipstick, towels, razors, or other personal care items with a person who has the herpes type 1 virus can lead to cold sores. Close physical contact such as kissing and sexual intercourse can also spread the virus.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if someone is infected with the herpes type 1 virus, but there are a few signs that can indicate an infection. If the person appears to be experiencing itchy or burning sensations on the lips or skin around the mouth, swollen glands, a rash on the lips or mouth, and painful swallowing, he or she may be infected.
If you get cold sores often, your doctor can help you and give you suggestions on how to keep your outbreaks to a minimum. If cold sores do not heal by themselves in seven to 10 days or you are showing signs of a bacterial infection, you should seek medical attention.
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