You're probably familiar with the symptoms of fever blisters: First you feel a tingling, burning or itching sensation on your lips, followed by a small, painful bump that stays with you for days. It doesn't look good, and it feels worse. And unfortunately, once you have a fever blister, you're also prone to future outbreaks. While you can't stop fever blisters from occurring, you can control them. Discover what causes fever blisters and whether fever blister remedies actually work.
The Fever Blister Epidemic
Unfortunately, fever blisters are a common problem associated with the mouth. Also known as cold sores, fever blisters are small blisters that form on the lips or other areas of the face, including the cheeks, chin or nostrils. Fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus, (the same virus that is responsible for genital herpes). But there are two different strands of the virus: HSV-1, which primarily causes oral herpes, and HSV-2, which is usually responsible for genital herpes. Although both types can cause fever blisters, approximately 95 percent of fever blister cases are caused by the type 1 virus.
Fever blisters are extremely contagious and are easily spread through direct contact, primarily from kissing or touching the fever blister and then touching another person. The number of people infected by the HSV-1 virus has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, it's estimated that up to 80 percent of the nation has the virus that causes fever blisters. You may have herpes simplex type 1 and not even know it, as not everyone who carries the virus suffers from fever blister outbreaks.
Symptoms of Fever Blisters
Cold sores are often referred to as fever blisters because of their symptoms. Early symptoms may include a tingling sensation or pain around the affected area, sometimes accompanied by a fever, sore throat or swollen glands. Within a day or two you'll develop a cluster of small, fluid-filled blisters. After they've fully formed, fever blisters will ooze fluid and eventually crust over until they form a scab, which should not scar if left alone. Fever blisters can last anywhere from seven days to two weeks.
What Causes Fever Blisters
Although scientists aren't sure why, it's been determined that a fever blister outbreak is more likely when the body's immune system is compromised. There are a variety of factors that can cause fever blister outbreaks, including stress, illness in the form of a cold or flu and exposure to sunlight. Children and patients with weakened immune systems are also very susceptible to fever blisters.
If you do catch the herpes simplex virus, it can take up to 20 days for fever blisters to form, if they appear at all. The first outbreak of fever blisters is usually the worst and between outbreaks, the virus remains inactive in one of your facial nerves. When triggered, it travels to your skin and breaks out into fever blisters. Not only are you contagious to others, but the virus poses more risk to you at this time. Touching your fever blister and then touching other areas of your face or body could spread the disease, which can cause such complications as genital herpes and even blindness. In rare cases, fever blisters can lead to more serious medical problems, including viral meningitis.