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What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small blisters that appear on or around the mouth. Cold sores are also called fever blisters, oral herpes, orolabial herpes, or herpes labialis. While the etymology may seem the same, herpes labialis only refers to oral herpes and not the genital area. The cause of cold sores is the herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) virus, which is totally different from the virus that causes genital herpes.

Once a person has contracted the HSV-1 virus, there is no saying when an outbreak can occur. In some cases, certain factors trigger a cold sore outbreak, although the same factors may not do anything at another point in time. Statistics show that 80 percent of adults in the United States are carries of the virus, although not all of them experience an outbreak.

When one has an oral herpes outbreak, tiny blisters form around the mouth, sometimes even near the nose. These blisters tend to group together, forming one large sore. The bad news is that once you have the virus, there really is no way to stop an outbreak from occurring. It is only a question of when. There are things you can do, such as live a healthy lifestyle, which may lessen the chances of an outbreak; but there really is no guarantee. There is also medication that can help alleviate the itchiness and pain caused by the blisters.

It is important to know that cold sores are highly contagious. Avoid coming into contact with people who have cold sores and make sure that you wash your hands and face thoroughly.

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