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Cold sores are clusters of small blisters on the lip and skin around or inside the mouth. Often the first sign of a cold sore is a spot that tingles, burns, or itches. A blister usually forms within 24 hours. The skin around the blisters can be red and inflamed. The blisters can break open, weep a clear fluid, and then scab over after a few days. Cold sores most often heal in 7 to 10 days without a scar. They are sometimes called fever blisters.
Cold sores are caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus. This virus also causes some cases of genital herpes. The virus can spread from a sore in the genital area to the lips. Or it can spread from a cold sore on the lips to the genital area.
Cold sores most often go away on their own. But if they are severe, embarrass you, or cause pain, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine to relieve pain and help prevent outbreaks.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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