As many as 80% of the U.S. population get cold sores, but many do not know, or equate that cold sores is also know as HSV-1, or oral herpes. In fact, many people contract HSV-1 in their childhood or teens, through social kissing from a family member or boyfriend/girlfriend and not think anything about it. Yes, cold sores is actually a type of herpes. In fact, HSV-1, oral herpes, shares very common, almost identical attributes of HSV-2, also known as genital herpes. There is certainly a stigma around herpes, but it’s usually around genital herpes. Gential herpes is labeled the “bad” herpes and oral herpes has adopted the name “Cold Sores” and is considered the “good” herpes. To those that actually knowledgeable in herpes, it’s quite comical at times to hear people talk this way. Although herpes is no joking matter, if you were unaware that cold sores were in fact a form of herpes, read below to find out exactly what is going on with your body.
Most people never see cold sores until they have a trigger, either stress related, perhaps an illness or a change in their diet that causes an outbreak. The reason that the cold sore shows up when you get a cold is because your body is fighting infection within itself. The herpes virus is then irritated and begins to come to the surface. Generally speaking, these cold sores are filled with fluid and are painful to those who get them. The infected areas tend to be the mouth region, more commonly residing around the lips. Though it’s not the most common place to find herpes, cold sores can be found anywhere from the bottom of the lip to the chin and from the top of the lip to the nose, showing up in clusters or just single sores.
One of the dangers of oral herpes, is that because of the “cold sores” name, people don’t treat it like they would if they had genital herpes, for example, and precautions are not taken against spreading it. Unless you’re just flat out irresponsible, with genital herpes, you’ll tell your partner that you have this condition. When have you ever heard of someone saying “I have oral herpes, or I get cold sores,” before kissing someone? The social acceptance around cold sores is that it’s not a big deal. Many people don’t even know, that not only can you spread HSV-1 from kissing, but that you can also spread it to the genital area through oral sex.
Even though your cold sore is a herpes infection, it can still be treated, but not cured. Make sure that you watch very closely for this type of virus as the sooner you find it, the better off you’ll be. Like genital herpes, a tingling sensation may occur before you have an outbreak. Your body will give you signs an outbreak is coming on. If you find it early enough, you can begin treatment on the sore and hopefully be rid of the infection within one to three days. Aside from Valtrex and Acyclovir, there are even a number of over the counter products that you can pick up at your local pharmacy that are solely for treating HSV-1. However, if the herpes virus is allowed to grow to its full strength, then treating this condition will take a longer time, approximately a week or even longer depending on the case.
Having herpes of the mouth can be very irritating as doing simple everyday tasks are affected by it. You will have trouble eating and even sleeping when you have this painful sore on your face. Even considering taking a shower will put you in pain as water only seems to irritate the facial herpes. If your herpes outbreak is severe enough, it’s advisible that you see a doctor as they can offer you antiviral meds to help reduce the outbreak time. As always, keeping your body both healthy, clean with a healthy diet will help fight off infection and reduce the number of outbreaks.