Herpes is a prevalent virus which, although it is most common in children aged 1 to 2 years of age, can affect people of all age groups at any time. Herpes in the mouth is often extremely painful and in most cases it becomes necessary to seek medical help.
What is a cold sore?
A cold sore is an oral herpes viral infection which causes painful sores on the lips, gum, tongue, palate and inside the cheeks. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus.
There are two types of the virus. Herpes type one is HSV-1 and causes about 80% of all oral sores and 20% of genital sores. Herpes type two is HSV-2 and is responsible for 80% genital sores and 20% oral sores.
Cold sores must not be confused with canker sores which are painful ulcers inside the mouth and cheeks. Although painful, canker sores are not contagious.
Causes of herpes in the mouth
Herpes transmission is through touching infected saliva, mucous membranes or skin. Kissing a person with a cold sore or blisters in the mouth or sharing a drinking glass or utensils with an infected person will make you highly susceptible to the virus. In children it is often caused by simply touching an infected person.
The virus is highly contagious and a majority of the population are infected before adulthood.
Symptoms and recurrence of herpes
The following are common symptoms of herpes:
3. Muscle aches
7. Tingling (especially in the initial stages)
Oral sores can reoccur due to the fact that the virus remains inside the body in a latent "sleeping" state in the nerve cells. Throughout a person's life the virus can become "activated" causing a cold sore outbreak.
The following are known factors to trigger recurrence:
2. Ultraviolet light
5. Hormonal changes (e.g. pregnancy and menstruation)
6. Abuse of alcohol
7. Excessive smoking
8. Certain foods
9. Temperature extremes
10. Incorrect diet
11. Being run-down
These symptoms often occur at the infected site prior to the appearance of blisters. Then clusters of blisters erupt and make eating and drinking painful and difficult. Gums may become swollen and bleed. Neck lymph nodes often swell.
Treatment of herpes
Antiviral medications can reduce the frequency, duration and severity of outbreaks. Analgesics can reduce pain and fever. Topical anesthetic treatments also help relieve itching and pain.
Certain dietary supplements and alternative remedies are claimed to be beneficial in the treatment of herpes. These include l-lysine, zinc, aloe vera and Echinacea. However, these claims are unsubstantiated.
It is wise to seek medical assistance when an outbreak occurs in order to get all the herpes info you need as well as relief in the form of medication.