Are Cold Sores Contagious

Are Cold Sores Contagious - Anyone who has ever had the “pleasure” of experiencing a cold sore has  pondered the question “ Are Cold Sores Contagious”.  The answer which may or may not be obvious to everyone is a resounding YES.  Cold sores are contagious from the day before they break out up until two to three days after the sore is dry and scabbed or crusted over.  At this point, healing has taken a stronghold and you are no longer contagious.  This whole timeframe is usually between 7 and 12 days from tingling to blistering to weeping to scabbing to healing.  Now you might be asking  yourself “So how am I supposed to know the day before it breaks out”.   For the most part, people will experience what is known as a prodrome of symptoms.  In other words, you start to “feel” something before the breakout.  That something can be a tingling sensation or burning or itching at the site that will blossom into a sore.

Are Cold Sores Contagious - Fever blisters, sun blisters, cold blisters are all affectionate names for the nasty little wounds that are properly known as cold sores.  These disagreeable little sores are caused by the herpes virus known medically as HSV-1 or Herpes Simplex 1.  Generally speaking, HSV-1 affects a person above the waist while it’s cousin, HSV-2, genital herpes, affects an individual below the waist.  This is not always 100% as either bug can work it’s damage in either area.

It has been postulated that more than 75% of the population has been affected with HSV-1.  Common sense would dictate that to achieve such a high level of  penetration into society, the answer to the question “Are Cold Sores Contagious” would be more appropriately answered as VERY MUCH YES!  

Fortunately the virus remains dormant most of the time taking up residence in a person’s nervous system and surrounding environs.  Then all of a sudden a “trigger” will cause the virus to leave dormancy and develop into a full blown attack on a person’s dignity a.k.a. a cold sore.  These triggers include but are not limited to:

    Nutritional Deficiencies
    Ultraviolet rays of the sun
    Hormonal changes
    Factors affecting the immune system

Some people think kissing might be a trigger but really the act of kissing doesn’t itself cause cold sores but trauma to the area especially if the affection is very aggressive.  Continuing to kiss someone after the tingling has started would be a no-no as you would be in the start of the contagious period.   Likewise, you would be well advised not to share any personal items such as towels, brushes, razors, utensils during this contagious stage.  

Finally, you should know and learn the difference between cold sores and canker sores as the latter is not contagious since it is not caused by a virus.  That doesn’t mean that it is O.K. to engage in a kissing marathon with a person with canker sores as these sores are open lesions and will invite a bacterial infection.  Canker sores which affects only about 20% of the population, are also known as mouth ulcers or oral ulcers as they are limited to inside the mouth.  They do not appear outside the mouth the way cold sores appear on the lips.  Medically they are called Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis or RAS for short.  These pesky little sores have many of the same triggers as cold sores plus one not previously mentioned.  Sometimes toothpaste can bring on a canker sore especially a paste with the ingredient SLS or sodium laurel sulfate.

Are Cold Sores Contagious


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