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Cold sores…what are they and how can you avoid them? We spoke to the team at The Online Clinic to find out more.

Imagine you’re on a date with someone, everything is going perfectly…until you notice the start of a blister forming on their mouth …

Cold sores can appear anywhere, including the lips, outside the nose, or even inside the nose. This can make them hard to spot and cold sores are very infectious. So, if you are considering dating someone with a cold sore on their mouth – make sure you take precautions!

We spoke to Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP for the low-down on cold sore evasion.

What causes cold sores then?

“Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus,” Dr Lizzie told me. “Many people are infected with this as children, and you may not even know that you have the virus until the cold sore appears many years later.”

When do you know your lip is about to become a herpes war zone?

You might notice a tingling feeling before a cold sore appears. This is because the virus is living in your nerve endings and as it is reactivated, so does the nerve. After this, the blister will develop over the next 24 hours. The resulting lesion lasts around 7-10 days before it starts to fade. Usually, cold sores clear up by themselves. However, sometimes there can be complications with skin bacteria which require antibiotics to get rid of them.

I’ve got a date! How can I get rid of my disgusting herpes blister?

There are several medications your GP can give you to help you manage your cold sores:

  • Acyclovir cream helps to prevent the lesion becoming too big. If you notice a cold sore appearing, it’s a good idea to use this.
  • If you find that you are very prone to multiple or large cold sores, acyclovir tablets can help reduce them. These are great if you know the trigger and you want to prevent them. For example, if you always get cold sores when the weather is very cold, and you have a ski trip coming up. For those of you who are prone to getting cold sores, it might be worth keeping some acyclovir tablets and cream at home. As soon as you feel the tingling of a cold sore coming on, take acyclovir.

Can I still kiss and…other things with my mouth?

Cold sores are infectious, so if you or your partner has one, you might want to suggest that you postpone kissing for a while. It’s best to refrain from oral sex too as the virus is also transmitted this way and can cause genital herpes which is very painful indeed!

But it can be cured, right?

Nope. Unfortunately, there are no cures for herpes/cold sores. Once you have the virus, it never goes away – all you can do is learn to manage it and control the triggers.  If you do suffer from cold sores, you can try and avoid them by getting plenty of rest, trying not to get too stressed, and steering clear of UV light. Learn what triggers them and change your lifestyle accordingly!


Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at TheOnlineClinic:

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