What are cold sores?
Cold sores - also known as oral herpes or herpes labialis - are small fluid-filled blisters that appear on or around the lips. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This viral infection is spread through skin-to-skin contact (like a kiss) or through saliva.
The fever blisters that result from an HSV-1 infection will often occur in clusters in what’s called a cold sore outbreak. These small lesions will break open and leave a crusted-over scab on and around the lips. The healing time for these breaks is usually about 2-3 weeks.
Once you’ve been infected by the herpes simplex virus, you cannot get rid of it. The virus will stay dormant for weeks or months at a time and will only reappear during an outbreak or flare-up. Herpes infections are contagious even if sores aren’t present. Although cold sores cannot be cured, health care providers can provide treatment options to minimize symptoms and speed up healing time.