Physical symptoms caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus (HSV-1) are most closely associated with outbreaks on the area of the mouth. Health professionals might label these oral herpes or herpes labialis, while you might call them fever blisters or cold sores. HSV-1 symptoms can vary in severity depending on the individual, but certain symptoms are typical in HSV-1 infections.
What Is HSV-1?
HSV-1 is a member of the eight types of viruses in the herpesviridae that affect humans. According to the American Social Health Association, 50 percent to 80 percent of people in the U.S. have HSV-1. HSV-1 can also cause genital outbreaks when someone with an oral outbreak performs oral sex on an uninfected partner.
When Symptoms Arise
If you're not infected with oral HSV-1, symptoms might not be noted for as long as 20 days after you're exposed to the virus, the Mayo Clinic says.
One or two days before an outbreak caused by HSV-1, you might experience pain or tingling in the area of the lips or mouth where lesions will erupt. This is called "prodrome."
HSV-1 outbreaks are characterized by a watery blister or small clusters of blisters that appear on the lips, around the mouth, and sometimes the chin and nostril area. Rarely will outbreaks occur inside the mouth.
HSV-1 Symptom Resolution
According to the Mayo Clinic, HSV-1 blisters eventually crust over and heal without scarring in seven to 10 days. Most of the time, there's no need to treat HSV-1 outbreaks, but there are over-the-counter topical balms that can provide temporary relief.
When you're infected with HSV-1, it stays with you for life. The virus resides in the ganglia closest to the top of the spine, laying dormant until something causes it to activate. But ASHA states that only around a quarter of people with HSV-1 experience subsequent outbreaks. When outbreaks are frequent or severe, your doctor might recommend a prescription oral or topical antiviral.