Can you Kiss Someone With a Cold Sore?

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A cold sore is a viral infection that can be spread, among other ways, by skin to skin contact, including kissing. So as tempting as it may be to express your affection toward an infected loved one, it’s best to abstain until the outbreak has passed.

The Facts

Cold sores are a recurring manifestation of the herpes simplex virus (type 1). They may be distinguished from canker sores, which are not contagious, and which typically appear on soft tissue inside the mouth. Cold sores can be triggered by stress, fever and other compromises of the immune system.

Features

Cold sores (herpes labialis) are fluid-filled blisters that often appear on the lips (less frequently on the nose, fingers, genitals or inside the mouth). The active presence of the virus is indicated by moist secretions from the sores.

Time Frame

Cold sores may not appear for up to three weeks after exposure, and they usually last between seven and ten days. After the painful blister has broken and the crust that forms has crumbled away, no scar remains. Unfortunately, medical science has yet to find a way to eject herpes viruses from their persistent tenancy in the human body. So once you have been infected and suffered an outbreak (some persons enjoy natural immunity), you are likely to suffer further outbreaks in the same places. You can take steps to reduce the frequency of these outbreaks.

Prevention of Recurrence

Since cold sores tend to be triggered by strains on the immune system, medical experts ask patients to avoid getting sick or being subjected to excessive stress or fatigue. Things to avoid also include sunburn, menstruation, pregnancy and excessive alcohol consumption. Things to embrace inculde healthy eating, getting plenty of rest and moderate exercise.

Prevention of Spread

Persons with cold sores should wash their hands carefully and frequently, avoid physical contact with others, and avoid sharing items that can spread the virus (like towels or lipstick). They should also be careful about touching parts of their own body (especially the eyes and genital area, which are susceptible to the virus). If you have been exposed to a cold sore, as soon as possible wash the area of contact with soap and warm water.

Warning

The Mayo Clinic notes: “In persons with depressed immune systems, the virus can be spread even after the skin appears to be healed.” Those with weakened immune systems should therefore err on the side of caution kissing.

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