Cold Sores and the Herpes Simplex Virus
Cold sores indicate that you've been infected by the herpes simplex type 1 virus (aka "HSV-1"), although it is possible, although rare, that those cold sores were caused by the type 2 strain ("HSV-2" ), usually the strain that causes genital herpes. Both strains are capable of infecting a person and causing sores in a multitude of different areas on the body including the mouth, lips, eyes, nose, finger and toe nails, genitals, and even the CNS (Central Nervous System).
Cold Sores Essential Information
Oral herpes is the most common manifestation of the herpes virus, by far, with genital herpes being second. Cold sores typically remain dormant in the sensory nerve cells around the site of initial infection (usually the face around the mouth), until an active outbreak occurs – an active outbreak is when you get a visible cold sore. This will usually last between 2 and 21 days, with an average for most people of about a week. Over time, your body will build up an immunity to the virus, and this will result in the frequency, severity, and duration of your outbreaks decreasing over time – some people who have been infected for a long time (you can never get rid of the herpes virus, sorry) will go years between outbreaks.
The Most Likely Cause of Your Infection
There have been several studies which have shown that, the vast majority of the time, oral herpes is transmitted to a person in their youth when they were kissed by a relative who's been infected and has an active cold sore outbreak (Source: http: / / /www.herpes.com/hsv1-2.html ). So, yes, you probably have a kissy-faced grandmother or aunt to thank for your lifelong cold sore problem. This is particularly likely if you started getting cold sores when you were a child, which would mean that you were infected when you were very young and there before you probably acquired it from contact with an infected relative suffering who had a cold sore. If you got infected later in life then something else was probably the cause, most likely that you acquired it from an intimate partner through physical contact, like kissing someone with a cold sore.
How To Keep From Infecting a Loved One Yourself
Obviously, now that you know this, you do not want to do the same thing to anyone else, so is there anything you can do to keep from infecting a loved one? It's been shown in studies of sexual couples that when one partner has herpes simplex and the other does not, the use of anti-virals like acyclovir by the infected person can reduce the odds of infecting the other partner by up to 50%. It was shown that asymptomatic (without symptoms) viral shedding happened on 10.8% days of the year in patients not receiving prescription anti-viral treatment, versus 2.9% of days while on antiviral therapy (source: http: //www.ncbi.nlm .nih.gov / pubmed / 16238897 ). So, in other words, if you're concerned about infecting a partner, child, or other person then the best course of action currently available is to go to your doctor and talk to them about going on a course of anti-viral treatment. Not only will this reduce the odds of infecting someone else, but being on a continuous course of anti-viral treatment has been shown to reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of cold sore outbreaks when they do occur.