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Cold Sores

Many adults and children carry the virus that causes cold sores.

Although the virus does not bother them most of the time, certain things, e.g. times of stress or illness, ‘trigger’ the virus and make it active. Each attack of the virus causes sores to form around the mouth or nose. They start as red itchy patches that develop into blisters, then become open weepy sores. The sores form crusty scabs that then crack.

Cold Sore Causes

Cold sores are caused by the virus herpes simplex type 1. This virus is extremely common and it is believed that up to 80% of the population carry herpes simplex.

When exposed to the virus the first time, most people will get infected, but only about 10% will actually develop cold sores. The sores of an initial infection appear 2-20 days after contact with an infected person and can last 10-14 days.

Most people who get cold sores will have caught the virus during infancy or childhood. They usually ‘catch it’ from close contact with family members or friends who carry the virus.

How Are Cold Sores Spread?

You can catch the virus by touching a cold sore. by kissing someone who has a cold sore or who is carrying the cold sore virus, or sharing things like cups, cutlery, face cloths or towels.

People with cold sores may also spread the virus from their mouths to their eyes by touching the sores and then touching their eyes. See you doctor immediately if you have a cold sore and your eyes become red or sore.

The virus can also be spread to sexual organs and to parts of the body where the skin is broken. Cold sores are only a minor nuisance in most people, but babies and people with eczema or other skin conditions can become very ill if they catch the herpes simplex virus.



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