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Herpes simplex

What are they?

Cold sores are caused by a virus.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptom is often tingling in the area (usually the mouth or nose) where a blister soon appears. This blister will then develop into a crust and will heal without scarring. Children who get their first attack can have more widespread blisters and may also have mouth ulcers and fever which makes them feel rather miserable. These blisters and ulcers will also heal without scarring and if the child has any further attacks they will simply take the form of a cold sore.

Why do cold sores recur?

Once someone has the cold sore virus, it does not completely disappear from the body but becomes dormant. Repeat cold sores can be triggered by factors such as sunlight, cold, stress and illness.

Are they infectious?

Yes. They are usually spread by kissing. People who know they have an active cold sore should avoid kissing young children.

What is the incubation period?

It is usually between 2 and 12 days.

Is there any treatment?

Most cold sores do not need any treatment at all and will heal up quickly on their own. Anesthetic cream, soothing lotions and antiviral ointments can be helpful (Herpesin, Zovirax)

How soon can someone return to school?

Most people will not need to take any time off at all.