Cold sore causes
The herpes simplex virus is responsible for cold sores. HSV-1 is mainly responsible for cold sores on the face, whereas HSV-2 commonly causes sores around the genitals. However, both types of the herpes simplex virus can cause sores on the face or genitals. Most people are exposed to the virus from a young age through close skin to skin contact with an infected person.
How do you get a cold sore?
Cold sores spread from person to person through close contact with an infected area. This can be through kissing or sharing food or drink with people who carry the virus. It can spread to the genitals through oral sex, which is why you should always wear protection when being intimate.
You’re more likely to catch HSV from someone who carries the virus and has symptoms, but you can also catch it from people who don’t have any symptoms.
When is a cold sore contagious?
A cold sore is contagious from their first stage which consists of a tingly, itchy or burning feeling in the affected area and it will remain contagious until it has completely healed. You should avoid sharing food or drink with people, having oral sex, or kissing loved ones as soon as you notice the early signs of a cold sore. Being cautious will prevent the spread of cold sores.
If you pass your cold sore onto a baby, it can cause neonatal herpes which can be a serious condition as their immune systems are not fully developed. Young babies with herpes infections always need to see a doctor urgently.
I kissed someone with a cold sore. What should I do?
Cold sores are highly contagious. If you kiss someone who has a cold sore, even if it isn’t visible on their face, then you have a high chance of contracting HSV and developing cold sores at a later date. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do if you contract the virus as there is no cure, but treating the cold sore in its early stages can sometimes prevent it from fully developing.
What triggers a cold sore?
Once you have contracted HSV, cold sore outbreaks can occur at any time. However, in most cases, something will trigger the occurrence of an open sore. Avoiding these triggers and making healthy changes to your lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing a cold sore. Some triggers can include but are not limited to:
- Extreme temperatures – hot sun and cold wind.
- The cold virus or another illness or infection.
- A weak immune system.
- Hormone changes.
- Stress and fatigue.
Some people will never learn what their triggers are, whereas others will feel like each cold sore is triggered by something different. Keeping track of your cold sores is advisable not only for pinpointing your triggers but for recording how long it lasts and whether you treated it effectively.
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