“Cold sores” are caused by the herpes simplex I virus. They are characterized by a tingling or burning sensation that progresses to blisters on red skin. They recur in the same area because this particular virus lives in a nerve root and is chronically shed to the skin along that same pathway. Most of the time our own immune system stops this virus from getting to the skin. However, when our resistance is down, such as during times of stress, illness, or sunburns, the body will allow this particular virus to come through to the skin and cause the blistering reaction.
Herpes simplex lesions respond well to prescription antiviral therapy if they are caught early, within 24-48 hours of the first symptoms. When in its early stages, our providers can perform tests to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment that can be used now as well as for future outbreaks.
It is important to know that newborn infants have no natural immunity against this particular virus. Herpes simplex I can be lethal in newborns, therefore, if you have a tendency to get “cold sores” and have an active lesion you must avoid direct contact with a newborn.