Dr. Hina Altaf Dermatologist

Cold Sores

Cold Sores

Cold sores are a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). The virus is highly contagious and can be easily spread through direct contact with an infected person or contaminated objects such as utensils, towels, and lip balm. Up to 90% of people around the world have at least one form of HSV. The symptoms are usually the most severe the first time you get cold sores. A first-time cold sore can make a child seriously ill.

First-time infections can also cause:

  • Burning and pain inside your mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach

After the first outbreak, your body should make antibodies, and you may never have another infection. But many people get cold sores that come back.

Certain things can trigger an outbreak, including:

  • Some foods
  • Stress
  • Fever
  • Colds
  • Allergies
  • Fatigue
  • Sunburn or being in strong sunlight
  • Dental work or cosmetic surgery
  • Menstruation


Cold sores usually start with a tingling or burning sensation on or around the lips, followed by the appearance of small, fluid-filled blisters. The blisters can be painful and may be accompanied by fever, swollen glands, and other flu-like symptoms. After a few days, the blisters will burst and crust over, eventually healing within 7-10 days. The virus stays in the body after the cold sores clear. If the virus reactivates or wakes up, you may get cold sores again.

While there is no cure for cold sores, antiviral medications can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. These medications work best when taken at the first sign of an outbreak. Topical creams and ointments can also help alleviate discomfort and speed up the healing process.

In addition to medical treatment, there are several preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing cold sores. These include:

  • Avoiding close contact with individuals who have active cold sores,
  • Washing your hands frequently,
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, utensils, and lip balm,
  • Get plenty of rest -lack of sleep weakens your immune system, so you get sick more easily,
  • Wearing sunscreen and using lip balm with SPF can also help protect against outbreaks triggered by sun exposure.

Minimal Downtime

You can return to your daily routine immediately after

Immediate Results

Results within 24 to 48 hours, with full results in 30 days

Painless Procedure

Brief period of discomfort during the injection, similar to a pinch

Results That Last

Effects typically last for several months

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are small fluid-filled blisters that usually appear on or around the lips, mouth, or nose. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Cold sores are highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters.
Cold sores typically go through several stages. The first stage is the tingling or itching sensation, which is followed by the formation of small blisters. These blisters eventually burst, ooze, and form a crust. The crust then scabs over and eventually falls off, leaving behind healed skin. The entire healing process usually takes about 7 to 10 days, but it can vary from person to person.
It's important to avoid picking or popping the blisters, as this can slow down the healing process and increase the risk of infection.
Several home remedies may help alleviate the discomfort associated with cold sores. Applying aloe vera gel, lemon balm extract, or a mixture of petroleum jelly and licorice root extract to the affected area may provide soothing relief. Keeping the affected area clean and dry can also help prevent infection and promote healing. However, it's important to note that these remedies may not be as effective as antiviral medications in reducing the duration and severity of cold sores.
Preventing cold sores can be challenging since the virus that causes them is highly contagious. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of outbreaks. Avoid close contact with individuals who have active cold sores, especially when they are experiencing blistering or oozing. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, especially before touching your face. Avoid sharing personal items, such as utensils, towels, or lip balm, with infected individuals.

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Dr. Hinah Altaf’s clinic is currently at Gargash Hospital, 145 Umm Suqeim Street – Umm Al Sheif -Dubai.