Oral herpes is a disease caused by a virus, generally herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1). It can cause painful sores in and around the mouth or can exhibit no symptoms at all. Because it is so contagious, it is estimated that at least 50% of people have had contact with a subtype of the herpes virus before they reach adulthood.
The herpes oral strain is only present in humans, and is transmitted though contact with infected skin, saliva, or mucous membranes. Symptoms of vary from person to person, depending upon the locations and severity of the infection. Early and less severe symptoms of oral herpes mimic those of the flu and can include fever and headache, and depression or irritability, and inflammation of the lymph nodes, particularly those located near the site of the pending outbreak.
If the outbreak proceeds beyond causing the infected person to feel ill, blister-like sores will appear on the skin around the mouth. These blisters are commonly referred to as cold sores and are fairly common. The outbreak of herpes sores begins with a tingling and mild redness of the skin that then develops into a blister that can be quite large and painful. These blisters are usually located very near the lips of the infected person, but symptoms can also be present inside the mouth on the tongue and gums, and in severe cases in the throat.
Because herpes oral symptoms can be quite painful, their presence in and around the mouth can make eating and drinking difficult. During the cycle, these blisters will burst and cover with scabs as they dry up and the infection comes to a close. Usually, the sores do not leave scarring behind after they heal.
Oral herpes-related sores on the skin do not look like pimples, but rather like blisters that contain a clear fluid. The fluid inside the sores is highly contagious , and the infected person should take care not to touch the open sore and then touch another part of his or her own body. Of course, to prevent the spread of the disease, infected persons experiencing an outbreak should also refrain from contacting others with the infected area of skin through kissing or oral sex, and they should wash their hands with soap and warm water after touching any skin areas affected by oral herpes.
Treatment of symptoms of oral herpes includes a variety of options. Over-the-counter medications can help with fever and pain management. Anti-viral medications, available with a prescription, can help minimize herpes oral symptoms, but are usually not necessary for those with healthy immune systems.
Natural treatments, such as adding the nutrient lysine to the diet and various topical herbal remedies, have been helpful in controlling the symptoms of herpes. Because of the pain, oral herpes can make people avoid eating and drinking. As such sufferers should take care to remain hydrated through an outbreak, eat healthy foods, and get plenty of rest to help support the body's own defense system fighting the herpes infection.