Throughout your life you have probably seen someone with a small blister around the mouth (or had them yourself) and whenever you asked about it, you probably got to know that this was a cold sore… or that this was a fever blister. But is there any difference between them? Let’s get into that.
These small blisters are known as cold sores, but are also called fever blisters, but we’ll talk about that later. These are skin lesions that form around the lips of people, or in the immediate surroundings of the mouth. These sores start out as a group of small blisters that then turn into a larger one, which will then scab and heal… and then probably come back, and so on.
Usually, cold sores reappear in the same general location, and as such a person that does manage to hide them somehow will be able to get a fixed trick to hide them and prevent the embarrassment of having them exposed in public (that’s the good news!).
Causes of Cold Sores
The cause for cold sores, however, is the herpes virus, that pretty much everyone in the world has heard about by now and, unfortunately, about 80% of the world’s population has this virus in the system (that’s the bad news!). But then again, only one third of the population gets cold sores and the rest of the population has the virus in the system, but it doesn’t really do any damage at all.
There is no cure for cold sores. There is no way to absolutely get rid of the virus (as said above, 80% of us have it). But there are numerous ways of masking it, as well as numerous ways to get the cold sores to go away as fast as possible without having to suffer too much embarrassment. A lot of people turn to home-remedy solutions, some of which work wonders, and some of which will only make things worse due to a number of reasons. But since the cold sores heal on their own, a lot of people just ignore them until they go away.
Now the true difference between cold sores and fever blister is the term itself. In reality, there is no real difference between them – these are two different terms used to describe exactly the same thing. These two expressions came from the factors that induce outbreaks of these skin lesions.
These outbreaks are usually induced by either fever or cold mixed up with some stress and then people decided to start using these two terms to describe them: fever blisters and cold sores. The scientific term for these lesions is “Recurrent herpes labialis”, which is a pretty easy to interpret term.
The agent that causes cold sores (fever blisters) is the herpes simplex virus (don’t confuse the causing agent with what causes outbreaks), which isn’t what you’re probably thinking of right now – it’s a different type of herpes.
There are two types of herpes, usually known as “type 1” and “type 2”. The herpes type 1 is usually the type of herpes that infects the body tissues located “above the waist”, and this is the virus that usually causes cold sores.
Then, we have the herpes type 2. This virus only targets body tissue blow the waist, and that is the type of herpes that infects the genital area of individuals – it is known as genital herpes. This isn’t, however, the common cause for oral herpes lesions.
People usually think that they get herpes and then they get a cold sore, so they will start looking for a point in which they were exposed to the virus and wonder how they got it. The truth is, they probably already had it all along, they were just exposed to the symptoms that cause outbreaks.
More often than not, the first time a person is exposed to the virus, cold sores do not appear at all. They only start appearing after the first time the person was exposed and as such, people usually don’t understand where they got the herpes from, but we do a lot of things that get us at risk, since the virus enters through our skin or lips, and we use them all the time on objects we believe to be safe, or kissing people we believe to be safe.
The initial exposure to the virus does usually have a few signs to show for it. Usually, a person starts showing symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat and irritability. A day after this infection, the mouth of the individual starts hurting and the gums become inflamed, adding to the pain. Then, tiny blisters might start to appear around the person’s mouth – these are very painful and might interfere with the person’s ability to eat, but they soon go away. Usually, the whole infection lasts between 10 and 14 days.
A lot of people don’t seem to recall these symptoms, so they might think that they weren’t infected. This isn’t entirely true. Herpes is all around and as such, it is likely that an individual that doesn’t recall these symptoms was infected at a very young age and as such, he doesn’t recall going through this phase. As a matter of fact, most infections occur even before the age of 7, so most people won’t recall them. Another explanation might be that the case of infection was pretty mild, and as such the symptoms weren’t so strong.