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Cold sores are small, painful bumps or blisters on the outer lip.
They happen only on one side of the mouth and appear in a cluster.
Just before a cold sore develops, your child may feel a tingling
or burning on the outer lip at the same place where he had cold
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. The sores
happen for the first time after your child has had contact with
someone with herpes. Once infected, the virus stays in the body
and can cause cold sores again. About 20% of adults have recurring
cold sores. The sores come back because of sunburn, fever,
friction, stress, cold, or physical exhaustion.
The blisters will rupture, scab over, and dry up. After the sores
are dry your child is not contagious. The whole process takes 10
to 14 days. The sores do not cause scars. If started early,
treatment with antiviral pills can shorten the course by many
If you feel tingling in the usual place but the blisters are
not yet present, apply an ice cube or ice pack continuously
for 30 minutes. This may stop the infection.
Once you get fever blisters, start applying a special cold
sore ointment as soon as any small bumps appear. Docosanol
(Abreva) is an example of one nonprescription cream. If you
don't have a special ointment, cover the fever blisters with
petroleum jelly to reduce the pain. Reapply it 4 times a day.
Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. Once you get
fever blisters, you usually can't make the sores heal faster
unless you have antiherpes pills and start them as soon as any
small bumps appear. These require a prescription and may cause
side effects. Antiherpes ointments do not heal the sores
Fever blisters are often triggered by exposure to sunlight. Using
a lip balm that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 can help
prevent cold sores.
Infection is spread through contact with fluid from the blisters.
Avoid spreading this germ to another person's eye because an eye
infection can be serious. Therefore, discourage picking, and wash
the hands frequently. Since the condition is contagious, have your
child avoid kissing other people during this time. If your child
is young and puts everything in his mouth, avoid sharing toys with
other kids for a week.
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