Tooth Talk with Dr. T: Cold Sores

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 7:48 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Tooth Talk with Dr. T: Cold Sores

Good morning. I’m Doctor Kris Tumilowicz at Dental Dimensions at Edgebrook Center. Come out today for the farmer’s market from 9 -1. Today is national dessert day and you may find some delicious treats as well. Today we are going to talk about that aggravating condition called cold sores. Cold sores are very contagious. Here’s what you need to know. Cold sores, also called fever blisters and oral herpes, are small sores that form most commonly on or near the lips. Cold sores usually follow a predictable pattern of four stages that last about 10 to 14 days. The first symptom is a painful, itchy tingling. A day or so later, small red blisters appear. Then, in a few days, the blisters form into oozing sores with yellowish crusts. Finally, in a week to ten days, the sores scab over and heal. Outbreaks can be accompanied by low fever, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. Cold sores are caused by the Herpes simplex virus, and once you are infected with the virus, it lives in your nervous system forever.

The cold sore virus is extremely contagious. It spreads by direct contact with an infected person, or through contact with personal items, such as infected towels, toothbrushes, razors or eating utensils. Symptoms appear from one to three weeks after initial exposure. Certain triggers seem to set off outbreaks. Some of these include exposure to ultraviolet light, physical and emotional stress, fatigue, hormone fluctuations, the menstrual cycle, and health conditions like fever, cold, or flu. There is no cure for cold sores, but you can ease the pain by applying over- the-counter remedies that contain numbing agents, like benzocaine or phenol, washing the infected area gently with water and an antiseptic soap, applying either a warm compress or ice, or avoiding spicy or acidic foods during an outbreak. In some cases, we may prescribe an anti-viral medication. If this is the first time you’ve had cold sores, or if fever, swollen glands, or bleeding gums accompany your cold sores, let us know right away, so we can pinpoint the correct diagnosis.

To prevent cold sores from spreading, follow these steps: Avoid touching the area. Wash thoroughly with water and an antiseptic soap if you have touched the sore. Don’t kiss anyone while symptoms persist. Don’t touch anyone if you have just touched your sore. Be extremely careful to prevent the spread of the infection to the eye, as blindness can result. Cold sores are painful and annoying, but take heart. They do go away on their own, and you’ll soon be pain free again. So ask your dentist or physician. Maybe you can get a prescription to alleviate that issue. When you start to feel a cold sore coming on, and once you develop a cold sore there are certain medications you can apply as well both prescription or over the counter.

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