Stages of Oral Herpes

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According to the National Institutes of Health, oral herpes, caused by HSV1 (herpes simplex virus), has five stages. Eight out of every 10 people are infected with HSV1. While some people may go years between outbreaks, which usually occur on the lips, others experience frequent attacks. Recognizing the phases of an oral herpes outbreak can help you determine how long it will be until the unsightly sore disappears.

Tingling

The tingling stage is the first phase of an oral herpes outbreak. During this 1- to 2-day long stage, the spot where the cold sore is going to break out tingles and may itch.

Blistering

The second stage of oral herpes—blistering—lasts 2 days. A red bump with small white blisters may form; this is sometimes accompanied by pain.

Weeping

Weeping is the third and most contagious stage of an oral herpes outbreak. The blisters break open, releasing virus-filled fluid. This phase lasts 1 day.

Scabbing

The scabbing stage of a cold sore lasts 2 to 3 days. The blisters scab over repeatedly; each one smaller than the last.

Healing

An oral herpes outbreak goes through the healing stage when the scabs disappear, leaving a pink area of new skin.

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