Cold sores on lip are caused by a viral infection. Many people have the virus that causes cold sores but may not develop the sores. Usually, the sores erupt when there is a trigger on a person with the virus in dormancy. Also, the virus that causes cold sores on lip is contagious and can be spread to other people. Explore the stages, pictures, signs and symptoms of a cold sore on lip. Find out what triggers cold sores on lip and how to get rid of them fast with medications and home remedies and other treatments.
Summary of Page Contents
- 1 What is Cold Sore on Lip? Definition & Meaning
- 2 Symptoms of Cold Sore on Lip
- 3 What Does a Cold Sore on Lip Look Like?
- 4 Cold Sore on Lip Pictures
- 5 What are the Causes of Cold Sores?
- 6 What are the Cold Sore Triggers?
- 7 What Are the Risk Factors for Cold Sores on Lip?
- 8 How Long Do Cold Sores on Lip Last?
- 9 Stages of Cold sores on Lip
- 10 Are Cold Sores Contagious?
- 11 When Are Cold Sores Contagious?
- 12 How Long Are Cold Sores Contagious?
- 13 Recurring Cold Sores on Lip
- 14 How Common Are Cold Sores?
- 15 Cold Sore in Babies
- 16 Complications of Cold Sores on Lip
- 17 How to get rid of cold sore on Lip
- 18 How to Prevent Cold Sores on Lip
- 19 FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Cold Sores on Lip
- 20 Sources and References
What is Cold Sore on Lip? Definition & Meaning
Cold sores are small or tiny fluid-filled blisters that usually form on and around your lips. The blisters are usually cluttered together in one area of the lip. Cold sores are also referred to as fever blisters.
Upon developing, the blisters then burst and ooze a whitish fluid which later dries and hardens to form a crust over the cluster of the blisters. The sores usually heal within 2 to 4 weeks without leaving any scar behind.
Cold sores usually form a cluster of many small blisters which burst and merge to form a crust or scab. However, a cold sore may appear as one usually big blister. Cold sores can affect bottom (lower lip), the upper lip, or both at the same time. It is also common on the lip line and on the corner of lips.
Symptoms of Cold Sore on Lip
The signs and symptoms manifested by cold sores on lip vary from one individual to another. They may also differ depending on whether you are having a cold sore on your lips for the first time or subsequent outbreaks. The common symptoms include:
- Tingling: You may feel a burning or slight prickling sensation, or stinging sensation before the outbreak of the cold sores on your lips
- Itching: It is also common for you to experience itchiness on and around the lips before the actual outbreak of the cold sores on your lips
- Blisters: Usually, small, hard, painful spot appears before small fluid filled blisters erupt, typically on the edge that separates the lips and skin.
- Oozing: With time the small fluid filled blisters merge and then rapture. As a result, painful shallow open sores that discharge a whitish fluid are formed on the lips.
- Crusting: With time, the surface of the fluid oozed dries up, forming a crust over the affected part of the lip
You may also experience the following signs and symptoms, especially if it is the first time you are having the cold sores.
- Painful gums
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
The signs and symptoms of cold sore on lip usually last for several weeks and the blisters generally take 2 to 4 weeks to heal. Generally, cold sores tend to be more severe in first outbreaks, and become less and less severe with the subsequent outbreaks.
Cold sores usually appear on the outer parts of the lips, starting from the lip line, and may also affect the skin around the lips. However, in children, a cold sore can occur on the inside of the lips and mouth in general. In such cases, the cold sores may be mistaken for canker sores, which usually appear inside the mouth.
What Does a Cold Sore on Lip Look Like?
The appearance of cold sores differs depending on the stages. At the beginning of eruption, the sores look like small blisters that are clustered together in a given area on the lip. Afterwards, the small blisters burst and ooze. The discharge hardens upon to form a crust and later a scab. As the cold sores heal, the scab falls off.
Cold Sore on Lip Pictures
We have inserted excellent pictures or images of cold sores on lip in various relevant sections of this post. The pictures are meant to help you understand cold sores on lip more. They can also help you get a hint of your health problem on lip by comparing it with the pictures provided. However, these pictures should not be used for self-diagnosis. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
What are the Causes of Cold Sores?
Cold sore is a viral infection usually caused by simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), which is closely related to simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), that normally causes genital herpes. However, in rare cases, (HSV-2) can also cause cold sores and (HSV-1) can cause) genital herpes too.
The term herpes simplex virus (HSV) refers to both herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). There is no cure for HSV. Once contracted, the virus remains dormant in the body until there is a trigger for it to cause an eruption of cold sores. Hence the cold sores can recur. However, medications can be used to treat the symptoms caused by the virus such as the cold sores.
Studies show that about 90 percent of the adult’s worldwide test positive for the herpes simplex virus 1 that causes cold sores. However, some of those who test positive for the virus have never experienced any of symptoms of an infection.
What are the Cold Sore Triggers?
Once you have had of herpes infection symptoms, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells of your skin. If triggered. They may show up as another outbreak of cold sores, especially at the same place as before. The common factors that can trigger a recurrence of cold sores include:
- Another viral infection
- Fever due to some health issues
- Hormonal changes, such as those that are associated with menstruation and pregnancy
- Exposure to wind
- Exposure to sunlight
- Changes in the immune system
What Are the Risk Factors for Cold Sores on Lip?
Practically, you do not automatically contract the HSV viruses when you come into contact with an infected person or share their infected items. However, some factors may increase the chances of contracting cold sores on lip. These factors include the following:
- Weakened immune system
- Severe burns
- dental work
- Chemotherapy for cancer treatment
- Anti-rejection drugs help prevent your immune system from attacking the donor organ.
How Long Do Cold Sores on Lip Last?
Usually, cold sores on lip last between 8 and 12 days. However, they may last for slightly a shorter or longer period in some cases. This depends on the strength of the immune system and general health of person affected. Also, treating cold sores, especially at an early stage may help shorten the duration considerably.
Stages of Cold sores on Lip
A cold sore on lip has a timeline is composed of 5 stages from when the sores start developing to the time they are completely healed. Each stage manifests different characteristics.
The stages happen within about 8 to 12 days but, this period may vary from one individual to another. In the order they occur, the stages are tingling stage, blistering stage, weeping stage, crusting stage and healing stage.
- Stage 1 (Day 1-2) – Tingling: The first stage is called the tingle stage or the prodrome stage. At this stage, the blisters are not actually visible, although they have begun developing. As the name suggests, this stage is characterized by tingling, burning or itching sensations under the skin around the lips. It lasts for about one day. It is the ideal stage for treatment.
- Stage 2 (Day 2-3) – Blistering: This stage begins about 1 or two days later. During this stage, a group of blisters filled with a fluid will show up at the affected area on the lip. The skin around the blisters becomes reddened.
- Stage 3: (Day 4-5) – Weeping: During this stage, the cold sore blisters break open (burst), exposing red shallow painful lesions that are oozing. This is the most contagious stage of cold sores. Do not pick the sores as this may worsen the condition or cause it to spread.
- Stage 4: (Day 5-8) – Crusting: During this stage, the blisters which are now clustered by the fluids oozed dry up, forming a brown or yellowish crust over the affected area. Avoid trying to agitate the crust as this will aggravate the crust.
- Stage 5: (Day 9-12) – Healing: This is the last stage of a cold sore. The crusted blisters now form scabs over the affected area and later fall off. You can emollients that contain zinc oxide or Aloe Vera to keep the scab soft to minimize the discomfort it may cause as it heals.
Are Cold Sores Contagious?
A cold sore on lip is a contagious infection. It is transmitted to other people when they contract the virus causing it (HPV). Usually, cold sores spread from person to another by close contact, such as kissing an infected person.
When Are Cold Sores Contagious?
Cold sores are contagious even when sores or blisters are not visible. However, they are more contagious with the presence of the sores, and more so at the first appearance of the blisters during an outbreak.
How Long Are Cold Sores Contagious?
Cold sores on lip are contagious from the first stage when the blisters have actually not shown up but there is burning, itching and tingling to when the sores heal completely leaving a scarless skin on the lip. This takes about 8 to 12 days but it can take slightly shorter or longer.
Recurring Cold Sores on Lip
Recurring or frequent cold sores may be an indication of a poor immune system. If your cold sores recur or occur frequently, see your doctor for diagnosis of other underlying health issues.
How Common Are Cold Sores?
How common are cold sores on lip? Does everyone get cold sores? Statistics show that approximately 8 out of every 10 people have the virus that causes cold sores. Most people are usually infected by the virus before the age of 10 years. Hover, not all people that have the virus develop old sores.
Cold Sore in Babies
Cold sores tend to affect babies, including infants and toddlers, more than adults. This is due to the weaker immune system in babies have. This also explains why most people who have the virus that causes cold sores are likely to have contracted it while under 10 years old.
Complications of Cold Sores on Lip
Although cold sores o not usually cause any serious medical issues, it can lead to complications. The complications of HSV cold sores tend to affect people with weak immune systems due to illnesses and some treatments like chemotherapy.
Most of these complications occur when the herpes simplex virus spreads to other parts of the body. This may lead to
- Skin infections: skin infections occur especially when you have open lesions caused by cuts or bruises or other skin conditions like eczema.
- Herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger). This is a condition that causes painful blisters and sores on the fingers. Children more likely to be affected by this condition because they get the virus from their lips if they suck their fingers.
- Herpetic keratoconjunctivitis: This is a condition that causes irritation and swelling around the eyes and formation of sores on the eyelids. If not treated timely, this condition can attack the cornea and eventually lead to deafness.
- Encephalitis: Though very rare, the virus may spread to the brain and cause it to become inflamed and swollen, a condition referred to as encephalitis. This condition can be treated with antiviral medications such as acyclovir, which is administered through intravenous injections.
Besides, the painful condition on lips may hinder taking of fluids, leading to dehydration, especially in babies and young children.
How to get rid of cold sore on Lip
Normally, cold sores on lip are a mild condition that usually clears up on its own after 7 to 12 days. However, you can get rid of the cold sores fast using either natural home remedies and or pharmaceutical medications. Besides relieving the symptoms of cold sores on the lip, the medications also help speed up the healing process.
Most of the pharmaceutical medications used to treat cold sores are available over the counter and are usually in the form of topical creams and or oral medications. The fastest way to get rid of a cold sore is to treat it as soon as the very first signs and symptoms appear.
Home Remedies for Cold Sore on lip
You can get cold sore relief using home remedies. The common and effective natural home remedies and measures of getting rid of cold sores on lip include:
- Ice: Apply a cold pack of ice directly to the sores for a few minutes for temporary relief. Although ice may not speed up the healing process of the cold sores, it can help relieve the discomfort and inflammation caused by the cold sores.
- Aloe Vera: Its anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful when you have cold sores. It is applied topically to help to soothe the skin affected by a cold sore break
- Sunscreen: Besides protecting your lips as they heal, sunscreen also reduces future outbreaks when worn on the lips every day. An effective sunscreen should be at least SPF 30 Apply it every day, especially when you expect to stay or walk in the sun.
- Lemon balm: Lemon balm helps reduce the redness and swelling caused by cold sore blisters. In addition, it may help protect you against future cold sore outbreaks.
- Stress Management: Stress ids one of the common triggers of dormant herpes simplex virus. Therefore, striving to reduce stress can greatly decrease the chances of a cold sore outbreak. You can manage stress by meditation and regular exercise. Also, try to avoid stressors by resolving issues in your life. If you have life issues that you feel overwhelm you, you can also visit a psychiatrist for counseling to reduce stress.
- Lysine: Lysine can also help with cold sores. It a cream containing the amino acid lysine is applied directly to the cold sore. Also, taking L-lysine can help reduce the frequency of cold sores in some people.
- Other remedies for cold sores on lip include:
- Butylated hydroxytoluene
- Tannic acid
- Tea tree oil
- Wild indigo
Treatment for Cold Sore on Lip
Just like home remedies, medications are aimed at treating or easing the symptoms of cold sores and speed up their healing process. Cold sores can be treated using antiviral topical creams and oral medications (tablets). Always go for the best medications for quick and good results.
Generally, topical medications should be applied on the lips as soon as the initial signs and symptoms of cold sores show up. The first signs and symptoms are tingling, itching or burning sensation on the lips or around the mouth. Topical creams may be infective if used after the eruption of the blisters.
- Antiviral creams and ointments: Cold sore antiviral creams are widely available over the counter. Good examples that are commonly used is aciclovir or penciclovir (Fenistil) and docosanol (Abreva).
- Antiviral tablets: Usually, antiviral tablets used to treat cold sores are more effective than topical creams. However, they are only prescribed by a doctor if your condition becomes severe.
The best and common prescription antiviral medications for cold sores include acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), famciclovir (Famvir) and penciclovir (Denavir). Some of them are available as creams while others are oral tablet medications.
Unlike antiviral medications which help treat the cold sores, non-antiviral medications are only used to ease the symptoms but not to treat the cold sores. They are available as topical creams and tablets.
- Non-antiviral creams: These are available over the counter and may be applied to the affected areas of the cold sores
- Pain killers: Medications used to relieve pain are also available over the counter as tablets or in liquid form. Common examples include ibuprofen or paracetamol can be used to relieve pain, especially for young children since they are available in liquid form.
Cold sore patches
Cold sore patches consist of adhesive piece material that contains a special gel known as hydrocolloid. The cold sore patches are placed over the skin to gradually absorb the drug over a period of time and also hide and protect the affected area while it heals.
How to Prevent Cold Sores on Lip
In the endeavor to stop and controls HSV and cold sores, it is vital to bear in mind that cold sores are most contagious when they burst. However, they are contagious even at their onset when the blisters have not appeared until when they are healed completely.
You may not be able to completely prevent the spread of simplex virus. Similarly, once you have contacted the virus, you may not avid recurrence outbreaks.
However, you can always minimize the spread of the virus or cold sore outbreaks. Some of the measures that may help restrain the virus or cold sores include the following:
- Avoid touching cold sores unless when not necessary, for example when applying a topical cream or other medications.
- Always wash your hands before and after touching cold sores or suspicious items, for example, applying cold sore cream
- Avoid sharing cold sore creams, ointments or other topical medications to minimize chances of spreading the virus.
- Avoid sharing share items that are used in the affected area, such as lipsticks, lip balms and cutlery such as knives, forks, and spoons.
- Avoid kissing and oral sex until your cold sores or those of your partner have completely healed to minimize spreading the virus.
- Be especially cautious with newborn babies, pregnant women and people with a weak immune system, including those undergoing chemotherapy or those suffering from HIV/AIDs
- Avoid conditions or items that you know may trigger cold sores. For example, avoid exposing your lips to the sunlight or use appropriate lip balm to protect them from the sunlight
- Eat immune-boosting foods, including those that contain vitamin C and E and zinc
- Take supplement with vitamin E and C and zinc to boost your immune system to fight cold sore breakouts
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Cold Sores on Lip
- When is a cold sore healed? It usually takes up to 2 weeks for a cold sore to heal. A cold sore is completely healed when all the scab has fallen off and there are no signs of any lesion on your lip.
- When is a cold sore healed enough to kiss? When the scab falls off and the lesion clears up completely.
- When are cold sores not contagious anymore? Cold sores may be contagious even when the blisters or sores are not visible. However, it is unlikely for it to be transmitted when there are no blisters, sores or scabs.
- Are cold sores bad? Any health problem is always bag. However, cold sores are usually a mild condition that does not pose serious danger to your health
- How long is a cold sore contagious after the scab falls off? Until the lesion heals and leaves a clear skin. It takes just a few days after the scab falls off. However, the actual duration may vary from individual to individual.
- Are cold sores contagious when not visible? Yes, but rarely.
Sources and References
- Cold Sores (Nongenital Herpes Simplex Infections): http://www.medicinenet.com/herpes_simplex_infections_non-genital/article.htm
- Cold Sores: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/cold_sores/article_em.htm
- Cold sores: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cold-sores
- Cold Sores And Fever Blisters: http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/mouth-sores-and-infections/article/cold-sores-and-fever-blisters
- Cold Sores: What You Need to Know: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-cold-sores
- Cold sore (herpes simplex virus): http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cold-sore/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- The 7 Best Cold Sore Remedies: http://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/cold-sore-remedies#overview1
- Cold sore: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cold-sore/basics/definition/con-20021310