Uncovering the Causes of Cold Sores

May 7th 2016

Cold sores typically heal on their own after a few days or up to two weeks. Treatment options include placing cold compacts on the sores, rinsing the mouth with salt water or baking soda and applying topical creams designed to zap away the sores. Proper hygiene and refusal to share fluids and personal items with others serves as a safeguard to prevent contracting the virus that causes cold sores.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are painful, small blisters that show up on or around your lips. It is also possible to develop cold sores within your nose, on the face or inside your mouth. Small blisters often form, and clear fluid can dispel from the blisters when the skin breaks. The sores are often tender and can be painful when you are eating acidic food or brushing your teeth. Some people notice their cold sores swell or become bright red.

What Causes Cold Sores?

Cold sores are caused by the type 1 strain of herpes simplex virus. The blisters are contagious and can be transmitted through saliva and contact with infected fluids. You can contract the virus that produces cold sores when kissing, sharing utensils or beverages, sharing razors and using towels previously used by an infected person. Fatigue and stress can increase your risk of becoming infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. Immune systems that are weak due to illness, stress or fatigue have difficulty fighting off the virus. Your dry, cracked lips also make you susceptible to cold sores. The herpes simplex virus can be transmitted through cracks and breaks in the skin. Winter wind and dry air can make your lips prone to infection.

What Causes Recurrent Outbreaks?

The herpes simplex virus never goes away and lies dormant within nerve cells in the skin. You may be prone to cold sores once you have your first outbreak of cold sores. Factors that trigger a recurrence of cold sores include stress, fatigue, changes in the immune system and exposure to wind and sunlight. People who have hormonal changes related to menstruation or are battling a fever or viral infection may notice an outbreak of cold sores. Medical conditions may also put you at risk for cold sores. People with eczema, severe burns or those taking antirejection drugs for organ transplants are at risk for developing cold sores, in addition to those undergoing cancer chemotherapy or people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS.


You may notice, out of the blue, that sores have suddenly populated your mouth and lips. Cold sores, also termed fever blisters, appear mysteriously; however, there is an underlying cause for the painful bumps that are now a part of your appearance.

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