Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex)

A cold sore is a common oral lesion that looks like a blister on the lip or near the mouth. If broken, the blister may ooze a clear liquid. Cold sores are caused by the virus herpes simplex and can be passed through kissing, sharing eating utensils, or coming into contact with infected saliva. While there is no cure for cold sores, treatment can hasten healing and minimize pain.

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A cold sore is associated with the following symptoms:

  • Itching, burning, or tingling around the lips starting before the cold sore forms
  • Small, fluid-filled blister(s) along the border of the lip
  • Small, fluid-filled blister(s) around the mouth, nose, or cheek area
  • Burst blisters leave shallow, open sores that ooze and then crust over
  • May also be associated with fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes
  • Recurrent cold sores typically appear at the same spot each time


On their own, cold sores can take two to four weeks to heal completely. Treatment includes various creams, ointments, and pills which can hasten healing and ease pain or discomfort. Prescription antiviral drugs help speed up the healing process.