Overview: What are Cold Sores?

Cold sores, also called Herpes Simplex Labialis (HSL), are a fact of life for millions of Canadians. They are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). The cold sore is the body's visible reaction to the Herpes Simplex Virus and appears as clusters of small blisters on the lips, around the mouth (especially the corners), and occasionally inside the nose. The virus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact, such as kissing, sharing utensils or towels, not only during an outbreak but also when no symptoms are present.

 Fast Facts

• It is estimated that cold sores affect one in five Canadians annually
• Without treatment cold sores typically heal within 10-21 days
• Cold sores have a rate of frequency that varies from rare episodes to 12 or more recurrences per year.
• There is currently no cure for the Herpes Simplex Virus
• The herpes virus can be transmitted even when patients have no visible symptoms through direct contact
• There are rumors that home remedies such as applying a tea bag, an ice cube or alcohol on the affected area could prevent cold sores or speed up the healing time. None of these techniques have been proven to be effective.


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