Updated 07 August 2014

Cold sores

Cold sores or fever blisters are small, painful, blisters or sores that appear on the lips. Read about the causes, prevention and remedies for this common viral infection.

Alternative names



Once the virus is in the body it is there forever and most adults acquired it in early childhood. The virus acquired during childhood can cause a mild infection that goes unnoticed or a severe febrile illness with sores in the mouth known as primary oropharyngeal herpes. This disease is very noticeable since there are extensive blisters in the mouth and on the lips of the child, causing pain, discomfort and inability to eat or drink. Once recovery has occurred, oral herpes or cold sores may recur in the form of cold sores in some people in later years, while in others it lies dormant forever with no symptoms.




When to see your doctor

  • If you or your child develop a painful sore on the eyelid, around the eye or complain about pain in the eye itself when he or she has a cold sore, you should see the doctor immediately, since this may be ocular herpes.
  • If the cold sores are extensive and are preventing you or your child from eating and drinking normally, you should see your doctor.


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