Sore Spots: Handling Canker and Cold Sores

There’s no denying it: Canker and cold sores can be a pain. Here’s what they are – and how to deal with them.

A canker sore is a small ulcer inside the mouth that typically goes away in about a week. Not much is known about their cause, but stress and fatigue are at the top of the suspect list.1 Canker sores can be treated with various over-the-counter topical ointments that coat the ulcer or temporarily deaden the pain so you can eat with some comfort. Regardless of what you use though, the sores will probably be around for at least a week.

Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that appear inside or outside the mouth.2 They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and are very contagious.2 Cold-sore outbreaks vary in severity, so someone might not even notice a cold sore while others experience very painful cold sores.1 Because the HSV-1 virus stays in the body even after the cold sore goes away, it can produce cold sores again. You can manage the virus by staying healthy and avoiding situations that lead to new sores. Conditions that trigger new cold sores include stress, fevers or other illnesses, and heavy sun exposure.3 If you do get a flareup, ask a doctor about antiviral drugs and ointments. Normally, cold sores go away in seven to 10 days, so many people simply wait them out.1

You can help stop HSV-1 by being careful and staying informed about the disease. Children often get the virus unknowingly from a family member or friend by sharing eating utensils, lip balms, or coming into physical contact with someone who is infected, whether or not their sores are visible.1 Avoid kissing someone if they have visible cold sores. Contact a doctor or dentist if you have an outbreak of cold sores, and stay informed about what you can do to minimize the risk of passing them on.

1http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/e—h/herpes-simplex
2http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouth-sores.aspx
3http://oralhealth.deltadental.com/Search/22,Delta153


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