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Cold Sore on Lip: Causes, Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Small fluid-filled blisters known as cold sores develop on the skin, typically on the lips, chin, cheeks, or inside the nostrils. They are brought on by a virus that is extremely common. Cold sore treatments are available to accelerate the healing process and find relief from symptoms.

What is a cold sore?

Small blisters known as cold sores generally appear on or near the lips. A crust develops after the blisters rupture. Cold sores typically disappear without a scar in two to four weeks. After having close contact with someone who has a cold sore, it can be a lifelong infection that remains latent inside skin nerves. Most of the time, it has no symptoms, but occasionally, the virus reactivates, causing a cold sore to reappear.

What are the signs of a cold sore on the lip?

The signs and symptoms of cold sores can linger for several days and vary depending on whether it is the initial breakout or a recurrence.

  • A day or two of burning, tingling, and itching around the lips before blisters emerge.
  • The border where the edge of the lips meets the skin of the face develops little fluid-filled blisters.
  • Cold sores develop on the cheeks or around the nose.
  • The blisters pop open, leaving behind little lesions that bleed fluid before crusting over to form scabs.
  • Fever, sore gums, a sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and/or enlarged lymph nodes may be present in some cases.
  • With the first infection, the severity of the symptoms ranges from complete absence to mild discomfort. The initial eruption begins one to three weeks after the virus has entered the skin through close contact.

What causes cold sores on the lips?

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) strains that cause blisters to develop around the mouth or on the genitals. Transmission occurs through close contact. Although cold sores are typically not serious, the infection could be fatal for someone with a compromised immune system.

Herpes simplex virus type 1

Because the herpes simplex virus type 1 causes cold sores, they are sometimes referred to as oral herpes (HSV-1). This virus is widespread and extremely contagious. It can be contracted by kissing, saliva, intimate touching, and the sharing of objects with someone who has a cold sore.

Herpes simplex virus type 2

Type 2 of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) can produce cold sores after engaging in oral intercourse with a person who has genital herpes. HSV-2 is regarded as a sexually transmitted disease.

Cold sore outbreaks

Factors that can trigger outbreaks of cold sores include having another infection, such as a respiratory tract infection, having a fever, ongoing stress and fatigue, skin injury, hormonal changes, overexposure to sunlight and wind, or having a weakened immune system.


If you have a severe case of the skin condition eczema, you may get cold sores all over your body. The herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores can also cause a serious skin illness called eczema herpeticum in persons with eczema.

How to treat a cold core on a lip?

For a cold sore on the lip, no cure exists. However, despite how uncomfortable and sometimes painful cold sores can be, it is possible to find relief through the following treatments.


Ointments, creams, and other over-the-counter medications can lessen your discomfort and accelerate the healing process. By limiting the virus's capacity to multiply, several antiviral prescription drugs can shorten the duration of the cold sore.

Cool compress application

A cool, damp washcloth can be used to relieve a cold sore. Apply a clean towel intermittently throughout the day for a few minutes. After using the towel, ensure it is washed or disposed of to prevent further spread.

Pain relievers

Over-the-counter oral pain killers and topical treatments can alleviate any associated pain caused by the cold sore.

Sun protection

It is crucial to prevent sunburn while a cold sore is healing, so wear sunscreen and SPF lip balm. Additionally, daily use of lip balm with SPF 30 may even help prevent further cold sores.

Avoid spicy and high-acid foods

Tomatoes, orange juice, fried foods, sugary drinks, and hot spices should be avoided during treatment as it can aggravate a cold sore and increase associated pain.

Cold sore patches

There are also cold sore patches that come with a particular gel called hydrocolloid. They are applied over cold sores to cover the affected region. This is an effective treatment for cold sores.

Seeing a doctor

Cold sores generally resolve within a few days or weeks, but it is important to see a doctor if you are having frequent outbreaks that are lasting longer or you are experiencing unusual and painful symptoms.

Preventing cold sores on the lips

The best way to get rid of a cold sore on the lips is to promptly treat it, which may also help in reducing the number or severity of outbreaks. You can also take personal measures to prevent getting infected or infecting others.

  • To avoid being infected or infecting others, take precautions if you or others have a cold sore by restricting intimate contact and not sharing eating or personal grooming tools such as razors, towels, or toothbrushes.
  • Practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands and avoid repeatedly touching your lips and eyes.
  • Be healthy. Cold sores can be brought on by a fever, poor diet, and unhealthy living.
  • Take time to rest. Your immune system is weakened by fatigue, which increases your risk of getting sick.
  • Put on SPF-containing lip balm. Avoiding an outbreak is possible if you protect your lips from sunburn.
  • Prevent triggers. It's important for your health to comprehend what precipitates outbreaks if you are prone to cold sores. The risk of infection can then be reduced by taking the appropriate actions to avoid these triggers.
  • Avoid touching or picking at the cold sore because doing so could transfer the virus to other parts of your body. It also interferes with the healing process and may make the breakout worse.

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