Herpes labialis, also known as oral herpes, is an infection of the lips, mouth, or gums due to the herpes simplex virus. It causes small, painful blisters commonly called cold sores or fever blisters. It can also cause additional symptoms such as fever and muscle aches.
Another condition called ‘canker sore’ is not to be mistaken for oral herpes or cold sores. Canker sore is a painful, open sore in the mouth which are not caused by the herpes simplex virus. Canker sores are white or yellow and surrounded by a bright red area and are not contagious.
Oral herpes is a common infection of the mouth area caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Most people in the United States are infected with this virus by age 20, and contrary to popular belief you can contract herpes without ever having sex. The HSV-1 virus are commonly passed on when you kiss some one that has oral herpes, especially when that someone is having an outbreak or cold sores. Most people aren’t aware (or simply in denial) that cold sores are due to the herpes virus.
As previously mentioned, this disease can spread even without involving sex. That means children are no less susceptible to this infection. One of the more common ‘method’ of transmission to children is when adults living with herpes lack a proper understanding of what herpes is and how it spreads, kiss children; effectively transmitting the disease.
That is one of the reason why herpes is very common, affecting approximately 50 – 90 percent of the population. The statistics are both staggering and sobering, and there’s a good chance you could have contracted it when you were a child as well.
After the initial infection, the virus lays dormant in the facial nerve tissues. When the virus later reanimates, the cold sores appear.
It’s worth mentioning that although herpes virus type 2 (HSV-2) normally causes genital herpes, they can spread to the mouth during oral sex, causing oral herpes.
How Does Oral Herpes Spread?
Oral herpes is highly contagious, it’s very easy to infect another person with HSV-1. The virus spreads through direct contact — through skin contact or contact with oral or genital secretions, like through kissing.
Although the virus is most contagious during an outbreak or when a sore is visible, it can still be transmitted even when no symptoms are present. HSV-1 can also be spread by sharing cups, eating utensils, cutlery, lip balm or lipstick with someone who is infected. In addition, if you or your partner gets cold sores on the mouth, the herpes simplex virus-1 can be transmitted during oral sex and cause herpes in the genital area.
Some people are fortunate enough to never experience any symptoms or outbreaks during the course of their lives, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of transmitting the disease to others.
Oral herpes causes different symptoms and may look somewhat unique to anyone that has it. But for the most part, the virus causes itchiness, burning or tingling sensations and are telltale signs of an impending outbreak.
The appearance of cold sores is a prominent symptom of the HSV-1 virus. If someone makes contact with a cold sore and then proceeds to touch an area of the skin with cuts or rashes on it or a mucous membrane, the chances of contracting herpes is extremely high. So it’s best to leave cold sores alone.
If you do touch an active cold sore, avoid making contact with other parts of your body. Be particularly mindful about rubbing your eyes. If HSV-1 makes contact with your eyes it can cause a considerable amount of damage. After making contact with a cold sore, immediately wash your hands. In fact, frequent hand washing is a standard procedure if you have cold sores or if you’re around someone with cold sores.
While cold sores are at their most contagious when they are oozing fluid, the HSV-1 can still be transmitted to others even between outbreaks.
The general belief is that once you’re infected with the virus there’s no way to completely eradicate them from your system. It’s really up for debate however.
While cold sores usually starts to heal on their own within a few days, they can be very painful and can be socially debilitating. Conventional treatment includes skin creams, ointments, or sometimes pills. They may get rid of the cold sores 1 to 2 days faster and can also help ease painful blisters and other uncomfortable symptoms.
However, those treatments are expensive and only provide temporary relief as they do not target the root cause. The irritating itching, burning, and peeling will likely to recur.
Complimentary, homeopathic treatments on the other hand, are known to be quite effective. They are holistic and comprehensive in nature, and do not carry the same side effects and economical cost associated with taking antiviral medications on a daily basis.
Herbs such as Echinacea can help grant relief from different herpes symptoms.
Baking soda aids in drying out moisture from oozing lesions, thus making the blisters disappear sooner.
Lysine which is an essential amino acid may also be used to prevent an outbreak by blocking arginine that plays an important role in the replication of the herpes virus.
Lastly, if you want to find relief from the burning sensation and manage flare-ups, try using a cool tea bag or a reputed brand of aloe-vera cream.
As a closing, indeed having Herpes can be more than a hassle, it can feel overwhelming at times. But if you practice healthy living and empower yourself with knowledge on what herpes is and how it spreads, you can eventually cope with both the physical and emotional factor of living with herpes.