Cold sores – not again!
Dear Ate Anna,
My son has a cold sore on his mouth. This is the second time he has had a cold sore this year. My friend told me that he has herpes. Is it true? Ate Anna, herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, isn’t it? My son is only seven years old. Is this a joke?
It is true that your son has herpes (don’t be alarmed - please keep reading). But your friend has only given you part of the information you need to know about cold sores in children.
Cold sores are common in both children and adults. Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that are usually found around the mouth or on the lips. The herpes simplex virus (commonly known simply as herpes) causes cold sores. There are two types of this virus. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). The herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) causes genital herpes which is transmitted through sexual contact. An outbreak of this type of herpes results in sores on the genital area (private parts).
Most people who are infected with HSV-1 first got cold sores when they were children. Children can get this virus from family and friends who have a cold sore. Cold sores are contagious. Cold sores can pass from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact (e.g. kissing) or sharing eating utensils or toothbrushes. Sometimes, the virus can be transmitted to another person even though the infected person does not show any symptoms.
It may take a few days (or as long as 20 days) for a cold sore to appear after a person has come in contact with the HSV-1 virus. The blisters around the mouth or on the lip usually last seven to ten days and clear up without treatment. A scab may form on the sore. It falls off by itself and heals without a scar.
Once this virus enters the body, it stays. In other words, the virus is with you for life. The virus will remain dormant in the nerve cells of the skin. However, the virus may reactivate when the immune system is weak due to stress, fever, a cold, or lack of sleep. Some people notice that situations like the hormone changes accompanying menstruation, or exposure to the sun trigger an outbreak of cold sores. Many people are aware in advance that a cold sore is about to break out – they have a tingling or burning feeling, redness, itching or pain around the lips or mouth.
There is no cure for cold sores. There are some over the counter ointments that can help ease the discomfort. Josie, talk to your family doctor if your son has frequent outbreaks of cold sores or the symptoms are severe and take a long time to heal. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help prevent the sores.
It is also important to teach your son to keep his hands clean because cold sores can spread to other parts of the body. He should wash his hands carefully after he has touched a cold sore and be careful about touching other parts of his body, such as his eyes or his genitals. He also needs to wash his hands carefully before touching another person when he has a cold sore to prevent the spread of this virus. Remember, teach him not to kiss or share items such as cups, straws and utensils when the blisters are present. As well he should apply sun block to his lips and face during winter and summer to help prevent cold sores.
For more information about cold sores, visit: www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-sore/DS00358
Many people are confused about Herpes simplex virus Type 1 and Type 2. Ate Anna will give readers some information about Herpes simplex virus Type 2 in the upcoming issue. Stay tuned!
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments.
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