Herpes Type 1, commonly referred to as cold sores, is caused by the Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). It is highly contagious, especially when lesions are active. Typically found on the face, especially near the mouth, it can also be transmitted to other parts of the body. Precautions can be taken to avoid transmitting the disease to others.
Symptoms and Transmission of HSV-1
One to two days prior to a flare-up, the infected person may feel some pain or tingling. Other symptoms may include a fever, sore throat, and swollen glands. A blister will erupt and can ooze. After oozing for a few days, the blister crusts over. At this point, the person is usually not contagious; however, infection can still occur for a few days.
HSV-1 is passed via anything that has touched the person’s cold sore. This can include eating utensils, drinking cups, razors, lip balm and lipstick, toothbrushes, and towels.
HSV-1 can also be transmitted via saliva. Kissing an infected person can transmit the disease. Even a social kiss on the cheek by an infected adult to a child can transmit the disease.
HSV-1 is typically found on the face, but can also occur in other areas, including the genitals. It can be transmitted by touching any area of the body that may have an active flare-up.
Periodically the virus is still active in the infected person’s saliva for some time after a flare-up disappears. Up to 2/3 of infected people may never show any symptoms. However, the disease can still be transmitted by these carriers.
The original flare-up tends to occur within 20 days of viral exposure. Symptoms can last for 7 - 10 days. Different physical and environmental causes can trigger a new outbreak. These include fever, menstruation, stress, and exposure to the sun. Determine your triggers and try to avoid them in the future. These will also indicate to you when you may become contagious.
Diagnosis and Treatment of HSV-1
HSV-1 is typically diagnosed when a flare-up occurs and the doctor examines the lesions. Antibodies can be investigated via blood samples analyzed in a blood test. DNA samples and virus cultures also provide information.
HSV-1 will usually clear up on its own. Avoid picking at the blisters. Avoid touching other parts of the body, especially eyes and genitals as these areas are highly susceptible to contracting the virus. During flare-ups, frequently wash your hands.
If you experience pain or discomfort, you can use over-the-counter topical ointments and over-the-counter pain medications. Hot or cold compresses may also provide some relief.
Frequent recurrences can be treated with a prescription antiviral medication, though this will not completely eradicate the disease from your body.