Cold sores are awkward, unsightly, and sometimes embarrassing. Cold sores are not a person’s best friend.
Once a person contracts the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), it usually causes an initial outbreak of cold sores.
Then, the virus remains in the person's body for the rest of their life, causing new cold sores to form randomly when it reactivates.
If a person keeps getting cold sores, there may be an underlying cause. Many factors can trigger reactivation and subsequent cold sore outbreaks, including:
Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy or menopause.
Another viral infection or illness.
Exposure to sunlight, wind, or cold.
Immune system changes.
The virus that causes cold sores is extremely contagious, even when a person does not have cold sores.
A person can contract or spread HSV-1 through sharing utensils, food, and beverages. Kissing and engaging in oral sex can also spread the virus. Oral sex may also spread HSV-2, which usually causes genital herpes.
Cold sores generally clear up on their own within a few weeks. However, most people wish to speed up the healing process to ease their discomfort sooner.
There is no cure for cold sores, but some treatments may speed up the healing process, ease bothersome symptoms, and reduce their recurrence.