A common cold sore is one of the most conditions in the lifetime of every individual. The cold sore progresses across five main stages and this is spread across roughly seven to ten days. It is important therefore that a person be prepared before the occurrence of the sore. Cold sores are also commonly referred to as fever blisters and have the characteristic of making the person infected self-conscious and uncomfortable. While noting that there is no known cure for cold sores, there are available treatment options that are meant to reduce the duration in which the symptoms are apparent. However, some people normally dispose of the infection without the need for treatment. It is therefore important to seek medical attention depending on the extent and severity of the symptoms as this varies from one person to another.
Cause and Risk Factors
In spite of the name cold sores, it is to be noted that the cause of the infection is a virus and particularly the herpes simplex virus which is commonly abbreviated as HSV. The infection is contagious and can be passed on form the infected person to another through direct contact on the one hand and contact with any bodily fluid on the other hand. There are two distinct types with type one being the one that causes cold sores. Between the duration that the virus is present in the body, a number of symptoms are evident through the five main stages.
Overview of Cold Sore Stages
The First Stage
The cold sore stages are spread across the period of infection. The first stage is the stage where the major symptoms are exhibited. According to the American Medical Association, more than eighty five percent of the cases experience symptoms which include:
- Tightness that is spread across the upper lip region
- Soreness of the throat and this makes the person feel like coughing at all times
- Itching across the area that has the sore which might also have a burning feeling
- Tingling sensation in the mouth and around the nose
This stage is usually managed by taking a prescription medication in order to try and tackle the virus as a complement to the body’s immune system. The cold sore will be distinguished from the other categories of mouth sores and this can be done by analyzing the stages of the formation and their accompanying symptoms through the stages. The area at this early stage might have an elevation, a condition that medical doctors describe as papule formation.
The Second Stage
This starts after the cold sore has progressed for a considerable period of time and after the infection has developed for generally between two and four days. At this point, the most profound symptoms are apparent and the need for medication becomes even the more important due to the discomfort that is brought about by the persistent soreness in the throat. It is worth noting that at this point, the virus causing the cold sore has woken up and is multiplying at a fast rate and thus the body initiates its own internal immune system through the white blood cells to try and fight the virus. Red clumps that have been filled with fluid emerge and form across the regions where the soreness is most apparent. This is the stage where the number of the virus particles is most predominant. Further to this, the size of the lesion that has formed is correlated with the general number of virions that are present in the body.
This stage can be managed by applying cold ice on the region of the sore to help with the pain. This is to be applied on the location on which the lesion has formed. Applying in on the area around the sore will lead to tendering of the skin and might result in infecting the other places and thus this is not advisable even though the pain might be burning in nature. By the very nature of the painful sensations that are caused, the ice has the effect of reducing the spread of the virus by making the conditions of multiplication extremely ineffective. This is one of the medical explanations behind the use of the ice and the use of cold water to clean the infected area.
The Third Stage
This stage is when the blisters rapture after bursting open. This might be very painful and the exposed as well as the ulcerated sores will start to form scabs across the body in an attempt to heal and reverse the situation. The individual will feel the urge to scratch the body due to the tingling pain that is felt at this time. The most advance point of the sore will be exhibited during this point of the infection.
This open sore stage is also sometimes referred to as the weeping or the ulcer stage and has the most infectious presence since there are literally millions of the viruses in the liquid in the formed sores. It is recommended that the individual should use antiseptic soap and water to clean up the sore in order to prevent the sore from spreading to other parts of the body. This should also be done alongside cleaning the hands with soap and water to avoid infecting other people.
The Fourth Stage
This has been termed the scabbing stage and occurs generally between the fifth and eight day after the infection. The scabs have the distinguished characteristic of being itchy and may crack up leading to external bleeding, although this is generally restricted to a few drops. Extreme cases may be accelerated especially in individuals suffering from bleeding problems. It is recommended that the scabs should not be picked up since this is usually an indication of the flare up stage of the infection. This is one of the most apparent of the cold sore stages.
The Fifth Stage
This is the final stage and is referred to as the resolution. During this period, the body has successfully managed to have the virus under control and thus begins to eliminate the few remaining traces of the viral infection. The scabs will begin to peel off at a faster rate now. In most of the cases, this takes place between the eight and the tenth day of the infection and will normally not require any medical attention. The skin under the places where the scabs had formed will turn into a pinkish or reddish color for a small period of time before the body covers its up in tis normal biological process. This should be expected for all individuals with the cold sore.
Some of the steps that can be taken in order to assist in minimizing the chances of contracting a cold sore outbreak include adopting a healthy lifestyle where the exposure to the virus are as minimal as possible. Moreover, a person is advised to employ the use of sunblock on the lips and this has to be done with the advice of a personal doctor depending on the skin type and other health factors. In addition to the above, the stages of the cold sore can be managed by moisturizing both the upper and lower lips through the use of lip balm in order to prevent the drying of lips as this has been found to accelerate the spread of the virus. Contact with infected persons should also be handled with reasonable caution.