Cold sores: The incubation time, stages, and ways to treat it

Cold sores: The incubation time, stages, and ways to treat it. Herpes zoster is one of the most common viral infections and occurs mainly on the lips. However, it can also appear around the mouth or even inside it in the form of small sores and blisters.

There are of course more rare cases that can also affect another part of the face , such as the nose, chin and eyes.

What is cold sores?

About 80-90% of adults are carriers of the so-called herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), while 50% of them have been exposed to the virus by kindergarten age. Most people, however, are unaware that they are carriers, as the infection may not show immediate (or even never) symptoms.

Although HSV-1 is primarily responsible for the appearance of cold sores on the upper or lower lip, there are cases where the blisters in the mouth come from HSV-2, which is more associated with genital herpes.

So in case you get this highly contagious virus, there is no serious cause for concern.

Although there is no permanent cure, as the virus remains in the nervous system of the infected person forever, with proper care and timely action it can be easily treated and its incubation and manifestation time-limited.

It is worth noting that someone who developed cold sores once, will not necessarily have continuous manifestations at regular intervals. He may never have herpes on his lips again.

However, there are people in whom this problem manifests itself several times, even within a year.

See also, Causes of pimples on face and treatment

What are the symptoms of cold sores?

To find out if the blister on your lips is actually herpes you need to have some specific symptoms.

Usually, before the annoying blisters start to appear, there is:

  • Pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Itch
  • Numbness in the area
  • Redness
  • Swelling

In rarer cases, more severe symptoms may occur, such as:

  • Fever
  • Increased fatigue
  • Feeling sick
  • Sore throat
  • Anorexia
  • Swelling in the gums
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of glands
  • Motion sickness

The incubation time, the stages and how long the cold sores last

The total time to complete the cycle is about 1-2 weeks. This period, however, is divided into some basic stages. 

  1. In the initial stage, the burning sensation, itching and irritation in the area begin.
  2. After 12-24 hours the painful and full of fluid blister appears in combination with redness and swelling.
  3. On the 2nd or 3rd day the blister breaks and the transparent or slightly yellow liquid it contains comes out, leaving a red wound. At this stage the contagion of the virus is at its maximum.
  4. On the 4th to 5th day after the appearance of the blister, a brown crust is formed, which may break causing itching, inflammation or bleeding.
  5. Finally, the crust goes away on its own after about 2 weeks and the cold sores heal.

Caution: Under no circumstances should you dig or break the blister. There is a risk of spreading the virus to other parts of your face or body. And of course if you touch the infected spot, wash your hands thoroughly immediately.

If the cold sores on the lips persist and have not healed after 2 weeks or the symptoms are very severe, it is recommended to visit your dermatologist. The same is true if you belong to a group of people with a weakened immune system, have a frequent onset of cold sores or notice eye irritation.

The causes that activate it

In addition to the transmission of the herpes virus from another person that may cause an immediate outbreak, there are a number of causes that can trigger the dormant virus and cause symptoms to appear. These factors, according to the Mayo Clinic, are:

  • Viral infection or fever
  • Hormonal disorders (eg menstruation)
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Exposure to sun and wind (mainly extreme conditions of extreme heat or cold)
  • Changes in the immune system (such as a simple fever or flu, but also more severe forms of immune deficiency caused by HIV, diabetes or chemotherapy)

How is cold sores transmitted to the lips?

The herpes virus is highly contagious, especially at the stage where the blisters that have appeared have burst.

From there, there is a possibility that it is transmitted before the presence of blisters, but also during their healing, ie throughout the 5 stages of the disease.

It is a virus, which is transmitted mainly through close human contact. The basic way is the kiss, but it can also be transferred from the saliva.

People with immune deficiencies are more vulnerable to catching cold sores. Of course, this does not preclude its transmission to healthy organisms.

Also, the transmission of the virus to babies is considered very dangerous. In some cases it can cause very serious problems, even threatening their lives.

Prevention tips to avoid transmission

Experts recommend avoiding close contact with people who show obvious signs of the virus. Also do not use common objects, such as cutlery, glasses, towels, sheets, cosmetics, and other things that may transmit herpes.

But it is equally important to keep your hands clean. Proper hand hygiene will prevent the risk of herpes spreading to another part of your face or body, as well as to other people.

In addition, keeping your hands clean and especially avoiding touching the affected area reduces the chance of carrying bacteria to the wound and infecting it even more.

Complications that may be caused

In general, cold sores are not a serious viral infection. However, according to experts, there are cases where there are serious complications or recurrence of the simple disease, resulting in even a respiratory infection.

The simplest and most common case of a complication is the transmission of the virus to other parts of the face, body or hands. However, the one that is considered extremely dangerous is the transmission of herpes near or inside the eyes. The main reason is that it creates scars on the cornea of ​​the eye, thus leading to even partial or total blindness.

However, the infection is equally serious in infants, the elderly and people with immune deficiencies.

More specifically, those with immunosuppression may have more severe symptoms, which include even damage to internal organs such as the brain (leading to encephalitis) and the spinal cord.

Also, people with atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop herpes throughout the body.

Finally, due to the severe pain in the mouth and throat, some patients drink less fluids resulting in dehydration.

Cold sores in pregnancy or breastfeeding

Regarding herpes lips during pregnancy, is thought not to affect the fetus. However, it should be treated with the use of antiviral ointment. However, due to this sensitive period for a woman, it is important for the pregnant woman to contact her doctor before proceeding with any treatment.

But even more important is the treatment of cold sores during breastfeeding. This virus could become very dangerous to the newborn if infected. So if you have symptoms, contact your doctor, take care of hand hygiene and avoid close contact (such as kissing) with the baby, no matter how difficult it is.

Cold sores and ways to treat it

The herpes virus is not completely cured. It remains inactive in the nervous system of the organism that has been affected until the moment of its reactivation.

The first outbreak of cold sores usually lasts for 2 weeks. However, in case of recurrence, the incubation time may be less than 1 week.

It is not necessary to use medication to treat herpes unless your doctor recommends it. The virus will cycle and go away on its own.

However, there are some medicines (ointment, gels or pills), but also medicines that can reduce the incubation time, as well as reduce pain or any discomfort.

Treatment with drugs for herpes

To reduce the pain you can take painkillers paracetamol and ibuprofen pills .

For treatment, your doctor may recommend topical ointments or pills that soothe the pain and heal the wound faster, based on the active ingredients:

  • Acyclovir (Acyclovir, like Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir
  • Famciclovir
  • Penciclovir (Penciclovir as Fenivir)

Penciclovir and acyclovir creams can be applied topically several times a day (approximately every two hours). It is of course recommended to consult your doctor or pharmacist before using them.

On the other hand, treatment with acyclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir pills is considered by experts to be more effective.

In both options, however, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are of great importance.

Alternatively, you can try antiviral patches (type Compeed) against cold sores. They help to treat it and are preferred by many for aesthetic reasons. They also protect the affected area from external bacterial agents. This reduces the chance of the virus spreading to other parts of the face.

In cases where cold sores occur frequently, daily antiviral therapy may be needed for a period of time. Whether it is necessary and for how long your doctor will decide.

Ways to physically treat cold sores

Although ointments or medications have been shown to be more effective in treating cold sores, there are some natural remedies that can help speed up wound healing.

1. For example, cold or hot compresses reduce swelling, redness and pain. The use of pure ice is correspondingly effective .

2. Do not neglect to thoroughly wash the area with an antiseptic soap by making light movements on the area, so as not to hurt it and not to spread the virus to another place. Then rinse with plenty of cold water.

3. Another of the most well-known remedies for cold sores is also considered to be alcohol. It has antiseptic action and tends to dry out herpes, reducing its healing time.

4. The affected area should be constantly hydrated to have quick healing, but also to prevent future flares. A lip balm or cream will help a lot in this. Products with zinc oxide and sun protection are recommended.

5. Alternatively, you can use Vaseline as it moisturizes the spot and prevents herpes from breaking out. At the same time, it creates a protective barrier against exogenous contaminants.

6. Another great option is to use aloe vera gel or lip balm with aloe. Soothes the symptoms and thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antiviral action will help in healing. Just apply it on the spot where the cold sores have appeared 3 times a day.

7. B-complex vitamins can be an important ally in its treatment, as they help the nervous system.

8. According to research by the Department of Microbiology at Brigham Young University in Utah, cold sores can be treated with local rubbing for a few seconds using a clove of garlic cut in half.

9. You can also take advantage of the disinfectant and antiseptic properties of lemon. According to research from the University of Maryland, by applying 4 drops of lemon juice to the affected area 3 times a day, you can fight herpes.

10. Honeysuckle has antiviral action and fights the herpes virus, reducing redness and swelling. All you have to do is use a lip balm with at least 1% honeysuckle or make compresses with honeysuckle decoction. Alternatively, apply diluted honeysuckle oil up to 4 times a day directly on the inflammation. It is just as effective.

Alternative methods of treatment in a natural way

The propolis, available ointment with 3% concentration, has the ability to reduce the incubation time of herpes labialis, thanks to its antiviral properties. In addition, it moisturizes the area, preventing bleeding.

The lysin according to the research of the Indiana University School of Medicine is an amino acid that acts against the herpes virus and suppresses the activity of the arginine tends to multiply, and to activates it. Contained in foods such as red meat, milk, egg, cheese, and fish, but also in creams or supplements. So you can try compresses with milk or topical application of yogurt to accelerate the healing of the wound – blister created by cold sores.

Also, by avoiding foods rich in arginine, you help further reduce the incubation time of herpes on the lips. Foods that are rich in it are cola, peanuts, walnuts, beer, chocolate, peas, and gelatin.

Equally effective as Zovirax ointment for cold sores is the natural herbal cream with rhubarb and sage .

In addition, avoiding stress as much as possible and keeping your immune system at a high level reduces the chances of herpes zoster being activated.

Finally, some essential oils have a beneficial effect in the treatment of cold sores on the lips. Some of them are the following:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Anise essential oil
  • Honeysuckle oil
  • Oregano essential oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Sandalwood essential oil etc.

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