How long do cold sores last?

How long do cold sores last?

The onset of a relapse of cold sores is usually identifiable with a characteristic progression. The virus (Herpes simplex type 1), which permanently hides in our body after being contracted for the first time, reactivates itself, giving rise to a chain of easily recognizable symptoms lasting about 2-3 weeks.


In this phase, called prodromal, the virus begins to replicate in the skin, most commonly on the lower or upper lip, giving a localized sensation of tension, tingling, and pulsation. Over time, generally from a few hours to a day, it is possible to feel a sense of itching (which some refer to as “pinpricks” on the lips) or burning, heat, and sometimes pain. Individuals who have contracted the herpes virus remain contagious even when they have no symptoms. However, it is true that in this initial phase, which lasts about two days, the region affected by the relapse is already more infectious. If this is the first-ever recurrence of cold sores, it is common for this phase to be accompanied by a slight fever,


In this second stage, the area of ​​the lips affected by herpes passes from a state of swelling and a sensation of having a small “sphere” under the skin to the appearance of tiny red spots which gradually enlarge, filling with a translucent yellow liquid until to form small vesicles arranged in clusters. These lip bubbles can generally reach sizes ranging from 2 to 5 mm. During phase 2, which can last from 2 to 3 days, the peak of herpes contagiousness increases considerably.


Phase 3, called ulcerative, is the most painful because the bumps tend to burst, uncovering the inflamed skin below and releasing the (extremely infectious) liquid inside them. The rupture of the bubbles results in a single large red herpes lesion that often complicates certain daily activities such as drinking, brushing your teeth, or just smiling.


It is during this step that herpes relapse naturally begins to heal. At first, a thin film forms over the uncovered ulcer, which then hardens into a more rigid crust. Under this protection, the skin begins to reform. However, the presence of the scab causes considerable discomfort, such as a strong sense of itching. And dryness and not being elastic tends to break while talking or smiling. Causing minor bleeding wounds and exacerbating the feeling of itching. This stage is usually the most prolonged and least contagious, ranging from 3 to 4 days.

Close up of young woman bitten lip.


This phase is the one that leads to the conclusion of the relapse. And culminates in the fall of the crust. If the falling process occurs naturally, there should be no scars on the skin. However, often many infected people do not resist the urge to remove the scab ahead of time forcibly. They are breaking the skin and increasing the risk of scars remaining there to remind the latest cold sore recurrence.

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Post Author: Amir

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