A cold sore is a blister, reddish or blue in color, on or around the lip. They may be fluid filled at first but often burst and leave behind a crusty scab. Although they are called “cold sore” and” fever blister” it is important to know that you don’t actually have to have a cold or fever to develop one. They often start out as an itching or tingling beneath the skin.
Cold Sore/Fever Blister, What Is It?
These sores are caused by the herpes virus. You may be wondering, “But isn’t herpes a sexually transmitted disease? How did my child end up with it?” There are two common types of herpes infection known as herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) and both can actually be spread by something as simple as a kiss or sharing a glass/eating utensil. HSV-1 is the type most commonly associated with cold sores but HSV-2 is also capable of causing sores.
It is important to note that as this is a virus. As such, once a person is infected, the disease lays in wait (dormant) in their system for the rest of their life. Most people may become infected and never show any symptoms. One reason they may be referred to as “cold sores” is that they often wait until the body is weakened by another disease or under stress to make another appearance.
As mentioned above, a cold sore may initially start out as an itching or tingling specific to one area of the face. Within 1-2 days you can expect to see a fluid filled blister (vesicle) that itches profusely and is often scratched which allows it to rupture and spread.
What to do if you suspect your child has a cold sore:
As always, it is important to seek out the guidance of a medical trained professional. Your pediatrician can help identify the sore and recommend an appropriate method of treatment.
Managing a Cold Sore
Good hand hygiene is of greatest importance to prevent your child from spreading the sores to other sensitive areas like the fingers/hands or even the child’s eyes. Washing hands thoroughly combined with preventing the child from picking or scratching the wound is your best defense. Furthermore these sores are moist, warm openings in the skin and the perfect opportunity for infectious bacteria to set in. It is amazing that something as simple washing your hands can help prevent all of the above and now that you know, be sure to apply this knowledge.
Most cold sores resolve on their own, however, anti-viral medications are now available by prescription or over the counter to treat cold sores. Again, it is recommended that you follow up with your pediatrician for guidance on what treatment is appropriate for your child. As always, appropriate rest, diet and exercise are key components in the healing process.