Kids' Health
Visit website  
Home › Topics › Your Health > 

Cold sores

virus; herpes; simplex; blisters; cold; sore; skin; sores; ;


Cold sores probably have 'cold' in their name because they may be triggered by colds, but they are caused by a completely different virus (called Herpes simplex) from the ones that cause colds. Cold sores can also appear when you get sunburnt or are sick. Hormone changes (such as when a girl has a period) or feeling stressed can also trigger cold sores.

Once you've had a cold sore the virus 'hides' in your nerve cells so that your immune system doesn't know it's there. As soon as something triggers it off, out come the cold sores again. cold sores

The life of a cold sore

  • You get a tingling, burning feeling around the lips or nose.
  • A few hours later the skin becomes red and swollen.
  • Little blisters appear.
  • The blisters open and watery stuff comes out.
  • The sore dries up and a yellow scab forms on top.
  • The scab drops off about a week later leaving pink skin which heals without any scar.

How to avoid cold sores

Cold sores are usually triggered by something that a person does not have any control over (like getting a cold or feeling stressed). Some people are unlucky and get lots of cold sores and some are lucky and get very few.

If you are one of the unlucky people who get lots of cold sores:

  • Try to stay healthy by eating healthy food, getting enough exercise and sleeping well (but this will not work all of the time).
  • Try not to get sunburnt on your face (use a hat and sunscreen, or stay out of the sun).
  • Don't share towels, face cloths, cups or cutlery with other people who might catch cold sores from you.
  • Don't kiss someone who has a cold sore.
  • Use a sunblock lip balm if you get cold sores on your lips.
  • See your doctor if you are getting a lot of cold sores - or even if you are just worried about it.

What to do if you get a cold sore

  • cold soresAs soon as you feel that tingle, put some ice on the place and if you are lucky you might stop the cold sore from coming.
  • You could ask mum, dad or whoever looks after you, to get you some ointment from the pharmacy or chemist. This sometimes helps.
  • You can continue to use this ointment after the blisters open and it will help speed up the whole process of getting better.
  • cold soresSometimes taking some medicine such as paracetamol will help if it is hurting a lot. Always ask an adult before you do this.
  • Try not to scratch or rub the sore. This could cause another germ to get into it, making it worse.
  • If possible put a dressing over the blister to help stop the cold sore spreading.

Stop cold sores spreading

  • cold soresDo not touch, or allow others to touch the cold sore. (That means no kissing too!)
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, or anyone else's if you have touched a cold sore.
  • Don't share towels etc. with others.
  • Wash your hands before and after putting the ointment on the cold sore.
  • Don't get the ointment in your eyes. (Don't you always want to rub your eyes or your nose just when you shouldn't?)
  • Be very strict with yourself and do not scratch off the scab. It will come off, leaving no scar, when it is ready.
entertainment Cold sores don't look too pretty and they have a nasty habit of appearing when you want to look really good, but other people don't notice them nearly as much as you do.

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate

If you act fast, as soon as you feel the tingle, and are careful to follow instructions the cold sore should not hang around for too long.

Sometimes people can have a lot of sores inside their mouth, and they can feel very unwell. Eating can hurt a lot. Youd doctor might be able to recommend some treatments. Be careful to drink enough so you don't become dehydrated.

Remember, medicine is no good if you forget to use it.

The sore or more

Is it a tingle, an itch or a bite?
Whatever it is, it gives me a fright.
Special occasion, new friends to meet,
Birthday party or some other treat.
Well what the heck! What will they see,
A horrible cold sore or a charming me?



back to top

We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


Home › Topics › Your Health >