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Identifying, Treating, and Preventing Cold Sores on Lips

Updated on August 19, 2011

Many people suffer from cold sores on lips. In fact, about 80% of the human population has been in contact with the virus that causes cold sores. However if the immune system is strong enough, a person that comes in contact with the virus will not necessarily experience a cold sore outbreak. Having a cold sore on the lip can be contributed to the Herpes Simplex virus.

Cold sores appear on the outside of the mouth. If a sore is located inside of the mouth, it is usually a canker sore and not a cold sore. If a previous outbreak has occurred, a new outbreak typically takes place in the same location on or around the lip area.

The Herpes Simplex virus that causes cold sores is contagious. Cold sores may be passed from one person to another through kissing or coming into contact with the area that is infected. After coming in contact with the virus, an outbreak may not appear for up to twelve days.

There are certain factors that can cause the Herpes Simplex virus to be more active with outbreaks. Being stressed or run down often allows for an outbreak. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy are also often times that women are vulnerable to outbreaks. Alcohol consumption, certain foods, and some medications are also responsible for cold sores on the lip. Sunburn and over exposure to direct sunlight may cause a cold sore outbreak.

The outbreak of a cold sore typically begins with a slight tingling feeling on the lip area. The area may be red for a couple days before the cold sore actually appears. When the sore does make its appearance, it will look like a cluster of tiny blister filled with fluid. The blisters may drain and cause a scab over the sore. The sores are the most contagious during the draining period when fluid is exposed from the blisters.


There are several different methods for treating a cold sore on the lips. Some treatments work better for some people than others. Over the counter creams are an option for treating the sore. These medications are applied directly to the sore. Some believe that herbal remedies work best for treating the symptoms of a cold sore. Lysine is one that many people claim to work. Home remedies may also soothe the pain caused form the sore irritation on the lip. Applying ice or warm tea bags to the affected area often gives relief. Using petroleum jelly or another lip moisturizer often prevents the scab from cracking and drying out when can be very painful.

The best way to treat a cold sore is through prevention. If at all possible, keep your immune system boosted by staying healthy and taking care of yourself. Cold sore outbreaks are less likely to occur if your immune system is capable of warding them off. Use a moisturizing lip sunscreen to protect your lips from sunlight. If cold sore outbreaks occur often, talk with a doctor about preventative treatments to use that lessen the frequency of outbreaks.


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