Generally called cold sores, oral or facial herpes is typically caused by type 1 of the herpes virus (type 2 generally causes genital herpes).
Oral herpes is a very common condition and about 90% of Americans are thought to be infected. Unlike its genital counterpart, oral herpes is not necessarily contracted through sexual contact. Oftentimes, the virus is contracted at an early age, perhaps by being kissed by an adult who has a cold sore. Sharing eating utensils, razors and towels with a person who has an active oral herpes outbreak can also contract the virus.
Oral herpes is common and incurable, but it is not fatal. Most of the time individuals who have oral herpes have no symptoms at all or the symptoms may be so mild that they are undetected. Even still, a person may confuse oral herpes with a number of other conditions. If symptoms do occur, they may include the following:
* Tiny, fluid-filled blisters or sores located around the mouth, surrounded by red (or inflamed) skin
* Soreness or tingling around the mouth days before blisters appear on skin
* Discomfort and appearance of blisters generally last between 7 and 10 days
While the mouth area is the most common location for cold sores, there have been cases where the outbreaks occur on nostrils, chin or even fingers.
One misconception about cold sores is that they are related to canker sores. The two are very different, however, in nature and in function. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and are contagious, while canker sores are not caused by a virus, but rather are noncontagious ulcers that occur inside soft tissue of the mouth, where cold sores rarely occur.
Cold sores can be passed from person to person through skin-to-skin contact. Greatest risk of contracting the virus is during the time the blisters appear until they have completely disappeared. However, it is still possible to spread herpes even after the skin has healed and the infection is no longer visible.
* Do not kiss or have skin contact with infected persons during an outbreak. Herpes is passed most easily when there are moist secretions from cold sores.
* Do not share items like eating utensils, towels, lip balm because these can carry the herpes virus during an outbreak.
* Wash your hands carefully and regularly prior to touching others during an outbreak.
* Use caution when touching other body parts.
* Avoid activities known to trigger outbreaks. Try to avoid stressful situations, like cold or flu, lack of sleep or prolonged sun exposure without sunblock.
* Use sunblock on lips and face prior to prolonged sun exposure.
In most cases, cold sores clear up without the need for treatment. However, if a person experiences complications associated with the virus, then it is a good idea to seek treatment.
Here are complications that may indicate the need to consider treatment for oral herpes:
· The blisters don’t go away within one to two weeks
· You have a pre-existing health condition that has put your immune system at risk
· Symptoms are severe
· You have frequent outbreaks
· Eye irritation occurs
There are many natural treatments available for the management of oral herpes. Natural treatments have been shown to reduce the number of oral herpes outbreaks experienced as well and the duration and the severity of the outbreaks.