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HealthInfo Canterbury

Cold sores

Cold sores are small blisters on your lip or around your mouth. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores are also known as facial herpes and fever blisters.

Many people get cold sores, and some people get them again and again.

Cold sores often start with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth. Small fluid-filled sores then appear, usually on the edges of your lip.

Cold sores usually go away by themselves in seven to 10 days without treatment.

If you start using it early enough, an antiviral cream like aciclovir (Zovirax) can make a cold sore go away faster. You can buy these creams at most supermarkets and pharmacies without a prescription.

If you get lots of colds sores, you could talk to your GP about taking antiviral tablets daily. This can help prevent future cold sores.

Once you're infected by the herpes simplex virus, the virus remains in your nerve cells. Normally it stays dormant but it can wake up and cause cold sores. Unfortunately, there's no treatment that can remove the virus from your nerve cells once it's there.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2018. Last updated December 2018.

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Page reference: 180573

Review key: HICOS-180573