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Cold sores (oral herpes simplex), flu, and other diseases are contracted through kissing, etc.

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Cold Sores

Cold sores are fluid-filled red blisters or boils on the lips and skin around them called fever blisters, oral herpes or herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Cold sores can also appear in and around the nose and on the cheeks and spread like a plague to other parts of the body and to other people.

Cold sores seem to appear at the most inconvenient times: during a vacation, when sunbathing or traveling, before a wedding or other celebration, and during sickness. There is a reason for this: stress.

An immune system disorder such as HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy, etc., can make the cold sore virus much more dangerous or fatal. You should see a doctor if think you might have both cold sores (oral herpes simplex) and an immune system disease.

Cold sores cause a tingle or itch when they become active. Blisters form during a cold sores outbreak, then open up and ooze. Finally, a yellow, crusty scab forms. When the scab falls off, there is usually no noticeable scar. Many people find cold sores painful, especially when they break open. This is called "weeping" because the highly contagious fluid inside leaks out. Cold sores can last 7 to 12 days.

The cold sore virus is very contagious at all stages, even when no symptoms are present. The herpes simplex viral infection can be spread to others through asymptomatic shedding of the virus from normal appearing skin with no symptoms. For this reason there is no point in believing you are protecting yourself by asking someone if they have cold sores or herpes simplex virus before kissing or intimate contact. However, cold sores are the most contagious when they break open and fluid oozes out. There is no cure for cold sores (oral herpes).

Cold sores can spread to other people through kissing even when people are completely unaware that they may have the cold sore virus and when no symptoms are present. The cold sore virus can also spread to other parts of your body, especially the genital area, and can likewise spread to other people like a plague even through skin contact particularly with a cold sore blister. Cold sores can spread by sharing things that touch the lips and skin around them, such as towels, lip balm, shaver, toothpaste, toothbrush, cups, or utensils, etc. Once the cold sore virus contacts a mucous membrane (e.g. mouth, nose, eyes, or genitals, etc.) or skin wound, it begins to replicate. The cold sore virus (HSV-1) transports to nerve cells and then to their roots where it can avoid immune system detection, becoming latent for an indeterminate period of time.

Out of ignorance, parents, grandparents, or other siblings or relatives can innocently infect children with the cold sore virus through kissing them on the mouth. Infants can also contract cold sores by sucking on a toy recently contaminated by another child. Children or adults with oral herpes can infect their own fingers (herpetic whitlow) by putting them in their mouths (autoinoculation by herpes labialis or herpetic gingivostomatitis). Children may also infect their eyes and eyelids through rubbing with risk of blindness. Bell's palsy facial muscle paralysis, and encephalitis, a potentially deadly herpes infection of the brain, are caused by cold sores [1]. HSV-1 has been linked to the skin rash erythema multiforme.

Herpetic whitlow (cold sore virus in the hands)[1] is an occupational hazard[2] of healthcare workers especially nurses, dentists, and other doctors. Beauty therapists and masseurs, etc., are also at risk of herpetic whitlow and other forms of cold sores (HSV-1) and HSV-2, etc. Herpetic whitlow in adults has a higher occurrence due to HSV-2, and in children and health workers herpetic whitlow is more likely to be contracted by HSV-1 infection. The herpetic whitlow ratio of HSV-1 to HSV-2 is calculated to be 60:40.

Herpes gladiatorum ("wrestler's herpes") is a herpes infection on the chest or face due to skin abrasions coming in contact with the herpes simplex virus.

Cold sores go through 5 stages:

  1. Tingling
  2. Blistering
  3. Weeping
  4. Scabbing
  5. Healing
The tingling stage is also called the prodrome stage. It lasts 1 to 2 days. There is a tingling sensation where the cold sore is going to form. This spot of skin may swell, become red and feel sore.

The blister stage lasts 2 days. A fluid-filled blister appears and may form clusters of larger blisters.

The weeping stage is also called the ulcer stage. It only lasts 1 day. The blisters break open and leave a reddish sore that becomes gray. The weeping stage is the most contagious stage because the oozing liquid contains millions of infectious virus cells. Contagious means viruses can spread easily from one person to another.

During the scabbing stage, the cold sore scabs over for 2 to 3 days. The scab usually breaks open and bleeds. It may also itch and burn. A second scab forms where the first one broke open. This scab is smaller. It flakes off and another smaller scab may form. Eventually the cold sore disappears. It usually does not leave a scar.

Cold sores are caused by a virus called Herpes simplex type 1, or HSV-1. A virus is a very small organism that multiplies fast after invading cells.

HSV-1 is from the same family of viruses that causes genital Herpes simplex type 2, or HSV-2. These viruses are highly contagious.

People get cold sores from other people, usually from parents and family members. About 8 out of every 10 people have the cold sore virus, HSV-1.

The cold sore virus affects each person differently. Some people have outbreaks very often and others don't. For some they are painful while others only notice tingling or itching.

Even though HSV-1 mainly affects the mouth area, it can be transmitted to other parts of the body. When it infects the fingers it's called herpetic whitlow. HSV-1 can cause blindness if it infects the eyes and brain damage, cognitive disorders, or dementia if it infects the brain. It can also infect the genital area, just as HSV-2 can infect the face.

The first time a person is infected with HSV-1, he or she may have a fever but no cold sores. The body creates antibodies to fight the virus. Antibodies are special chemicals that control the virus by killing most of its cells.

The cold sore virus usually hides in nerve cells. This makes it impossible for antibodies to totally kill the virus.

The virus "sleeps" in the nerve cells. While "asleep," the virus is called dormant. When it "wakes up," it travels through the nerve to the skin's surface. About 1/3 of all people who get cold sores usually have them in the same spot each time.

The herpes virus (cold sore virus) is an opportunistic virus. It waits until the immune system is busy fighting other illnesses. That is when it "wakes up" and causes cold sores.

People who have a lot of outbreaks may notice they happen when the body is stressed. Many things can cause stress, such as:

  • A cold or infection
  • Traveling/vacation
  • Long exposure to sunlight
  • Menstrual periods
  • Having a tooth removed
  • An accident
  • Emotional or psychological stress
  • Preparing for a wedding, speech, or other event
  • Digestive problems
  • Traveler's diarrhea
  • Injury to the lips
People who get cold sores often should be aware of stress. When under stress, be alert for tingling or itching. The best time to treat outbreaks is during the tingling prodrome stage.

Diagnosis

A blood test can show whether a person is infected with the HSV-1 cold sore virus. People sometimes confuse canker sores with cold sores. However, cold sores do not generally develop inside the mouth. Canker sores are not contagious like cold sores are.

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These cold sore KissRisk ideas were created by KissRisk.com and EasyWitnessing.org Copyright (C) and can be used unaltered without permission as long as this copyright credit is properly displayed and web links to Cold sores and fatal diseases - KissRisk.com and Easy Christian Witnessing System are included on websites or blogs, etc.

References:
1. Wu IB, Schwartz RA., Cutis. Mar 2007;79(3):193-6, Herpetic whitlow.
2. Klotz RW., AANA J. Feb 1990;58(1):8-13, Herpetic whitlow: an occupational hazard.
3. McCormick DP. Herpes-simplex virus as a cause of Bell's palsy. Lancet. 1972; 1:937-9