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DermTV - When Are Cold Sores Contagious [DermTV.com Epi #158]

[music] Hello, I’m Dr. Neal Schultz

[pause]

and welcome to DermTV.

Cold sores, which are the same thing as fever blisters, are outbreaks

caused by the herpes virus and, when they occur on your face, they usually

occur around your mouth or actually on your lips. It doesn’t matter whether

yours are caused by type 1 herpes or type 2 herpes because the behavior and

the outbreaks is the same regardless. While obviously they‘re caused by

fevers and by colds, they can also be caused by being under a lot of stress

or if there is actually trauma to the area where you break out, like the

dentist pulling on your lips or on your mouth or maybe even just from a lot

of kissing. The important thing for you to know is that it’s contagious

from the day before it breaks out until two days after it’s dry and

crusted, on its way to healing. Well, telling you that it’s contagious a

day before doesn’t help you very much unless you know when it’s breaking

out. Some people, when they break out, get a tingling or a burning in the

area where they get their cold sore, so those people know the day before

they’re breaking out. But this is very, very important because this virus

is spread by skin-to-skin contact. So, from the first moment that you have

any inkling that you’re getting a break-out until 2-3 days after it’s dry

and crusted, make sure you don’t kiss anybody and also make sure that no

other part of your skin or anybody else’s skin comes in contact with the

part of your face which has the break-out. If treatment is started early

enough especially oral treatment with either Valtrex or Famvir, you can

either abort the outbreak or sometimes even prevent it completely, but the

pills have to be taken for 1-3 days and they’re available only by

prescription. In another episode, I’ll discuss how, even between outbreaks,

there are times when you can pass your virus on and therefore be

contagious.