What Are Fever Sores? How Should I Treat Them?

Why do my husband and daughter both get fever sores? What is the best way to treat them?

Also called cold sores or fever blisters, these painful sores on or around the lips are caused by a virus — herpes simplex, type 1 (HSV-1). When a cold sore erupts, it is contagious through contact with the sore, so it is possible that your husband gave it to your daughter or vice versa. Typically, when an infant or young child catches HSV-1, there is no blister the first time round. Instead, the child may have a fever, swollen glands, sore throat or ulcers or soreness inside the mouth.

Take precautions so that you or other siblings do not catch the infection. Avoid touching, kissing or other contact with the sore. Encourage frequent hand-washing by the affected person. HSV-1 can be spread from the active blister to the eyes, genitals and other areas, so it is important to avoid touching active blisters. It can be spread from mouth to genitals by oral sex, although this is a different form of the virus than genital herpes (HSV-2).

Once the virus gets in the system, it will always be there, usually in a harmless dormant state until something activates it and a cold sore erupts. Sun exposure, injury, emotional stress, colds, infections and illnesses may all trigger an outbreak. Wearing lip balm containing sunscreen seems to help prevent outbreaks.

Cold sores go away in a week or so, but they can be very uncomfortable while they last. The cycle of the blister typically starts out with a slight feeling of tingling. Within about a day, a cluster of tiny blisters may appear. This usually progresses to a full-fledged open sore, which then crusts over and heals.

Over-the-counter balms and ointments may help ease the discomfort, but will not shorten the cycle. You can ask your doctor about prescription anti-viral medications which may speed the healing process, especially if used at the onset of the blister. While it has not been proven effective, some people start taking vitamin C or lysine, an amino acid, when they feel that telltale tingling. Lysine tablets are sold at drugstores and health food stores. Advocates of these nutrients say they interrupt or shorten the blister cycle.

The information provided on Health Search Online is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.