The terms cold sore, fever blister, herpes labialis, herpes simplex and oral herpes simplex are unpleasant names for an unpleasant condition.
For those who suffer from this affliction, oral herpes can be the bane of their existence, sores appearing often at the worst of times it seems.
And once a sore starts you can pretty much count on it getting far worse before it begins to get better.
Oral herpes is a DNA virus causing sores in and around your mouth, and is responsible for 80 percent of oral herpes cases. It affects the gums, lips and mouth, with small blisters often known as cold sores or fever blisters. They look bad and they hurt.
They can show up at any age, though they are most common in children. WebMD said that this usually happens at ages one to two years. According to PubMed Health, symptoms are most common between ages one to five years.
Most Americans will have been infected with at least one herpes subtype or more by the time they reach the age of 20.
It's easy to catch oral herpes, through mucous membranes, saliva and the skin. If you are in contact with things touched by someone who is infected, you can catch the virus. Children can catch it from their parents if their parents have it.
Three stages occur after infection.
At the primary infection stage, the virus reproduces after entering your mucous membrane or your skin. You may experience oral sores with uncomfortable symptoms.
If however you have an asymptomatic infection, there will be no noticeable symptoms. This type of infection is twice as common as herpes with symptoms.
In the latency stage, the virus travels from the site of infection to your dorsal root ganglion (nervous tissue in the spine). It will reproduce again, after which it will stop being active.
The recurrence stage can happen when you are under emotional or physical stress. It may be triggered by hormone changes or menstruation, fever or being out in the sun too long.
Reactivation of the virus brings a new batch of sores and another flareup of symptoms.
The virus becomes dormant in the face's nerve tissue after the first time you're infected. When reactivated, cold sores appear.
You may have a cold sore coming if your lips or the skin around your mouth burns, itches or tingles. Symptoms that may appear before a cold sore makes its appearance are fever, pain when swallowing, sore throat and swollen glands.
You can get a cold sore on your gums, lips or mouth or in your throat. You may get a red blister that breaks open and leaks. You may get a small blister containing clear yellowish liquid.
More than one blister can lead to a cluster of little ones become one big blister. A healing blister becomes yellow and crusted, finally leaving you with pink skin.
Symptoms appear within one to three weeks of contact, and may last for up to three weeks.
Oral Herpes. Webmd.com. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2012.
Herpes - oral. NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2012.
Reviewed November 23, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN