Cold Sore Symptoms

What does a Cold Sore look and feel like, what are the common symptoms?

1. The skin tends to feel slightly raised and tender before any cold sore appears, it can also appear red and inflamed and feel as if it is 'tingling'

  • These early symptoms are usually referred to as the "prodrome" or "prodromal symptoms". They are warning signs that indicate that the cold sore virus may be active and contagious, and that a cold sore breakout might appear soon. Pain, itching and tingling around the lips can often be an indication that a cold sore is on its way.
  • This is also the best time to apply suppressive medications and acyclovir based creams such as Zovirax®.
  • If it is the first primary outbreak (meaning the first exposure to the cold sore virus) then flu-like symptoms may also be experienced, such as swollen glands, fever, headache, muscle aches and pains.

FACT: Some people never have cold sore symptoms and may not even know that they have contracted cold sores. Even if you have never had a cold sore that you can remember, you may still have contracted the virus at some point in your life. The only way to know for sure is a HSV-1 blood test.

2. The redness and swelling usually develops into a small blister or cluster of blisters

  • Sometimes the symptoms can be very mild and a blister may not develop in every case. Less common symptoms can include a tear in the skin (similar to a tiny paper-cut), or a sore that does not blister.
  • The cold sore virus breaks out in areas that are attached to the same nerve ganglion (region). In the case of cold sores, the nerve region affected includes the lips, nose, mouth and chin area. Therefore, a cold sore can sometimes appear in any of these locations.

FACT: The cold sore virus generally likes to follow the same pathway to the skin each time it surfaces, so for most people any future cold sores will occur in the same spot, or nearby to that spot.

Cold Sore Blisters
Close up image of a cold sore blister cluster

3) The blister/s will usually burst open naturally and weep fluids

  • This is the most active stage of the cold sore breakout. It is also the most contagious time when the cold sore virus is most likely to spread.
  • This is the ideal time to apply Dynamiclear Rapid®. This is because Dynamiclear is able to eliminate a maximum amount of the cold sore virus during this phase.

FACT: Many people catch cold sores under the age of 7, usually from a family member, friend or relative giving them a kiss while they have an active cold sore.

4) A crusting typically forms over the sore once it has dried out and is healing

  • This scabbing stage can be the most uneasy part of having a cold sore due to its unpleasant and hard-to-hide appearance. Applying a small amount of papaw ointment or allow vera gel during this stage can help to dissolve the scab and speed healing.

5) After the scab falls off, the skin can appear tender and pink before returning back to its healthy appearance

  • Cold sores do not usually leave a scar. In rare cases, the pink tenderness can take time to heal. This may be more likely for men who regularly shave over the area making it more sensitive. Vitamin e oil, taken both internally and applied directly onto the skin morning and night, can help to heal and soothe any redness that may remain after a cold sore breakout.

Cold Sore Symptoms
Image of cold sores which are in the 'scabbing' stage

Other Helpful Resources:| Sexual Health Resource | STD Information | Herpes-Cold Sores (HC) Support Forum | Global Herbal Supplies