More common than you think

Treating Oral Herpes

Dr. Sharon Robinson

Oral herpes is an infection of the lips, mouth, or gums due to the herpes simplex virus. It causes small, painful blisters commonly called cold sores or fever blisters. Oral herpes is also called herpes labialis.

Causes

Oral herpes is a common infection of the mouth area. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Most people in the United States are infected with this virus by age 20. After the first infection, the virus becomes dormant in the nerve tissues in the face. Sometimes, the virus later wakes up (reactivates), causing cold sores.

Herpes virus type 2 (HSV-2) most often causes’ genital herpes. However, sometimes HSV-2 is spread to the mouth during oral sex, causing oral herpes. Herpes viruses spread most easily from individuals with an active outbreak or sore. You can catch this virus if you hHave intimate or personal contact with someone who is infected, or touch an open herpes sore or something that has been in contact with the herpes virus, such as infected razors, towels, dishes, and other shared items. Parents may spread the virus to their children during regular daily activities.

Symptoms

Some people get mouth ulcers when they first come into contact with HSV-1 virus. Others have no symptoms. Symptoms most often occur in kids between 1 and 5 years old. Symptoms may be mild or severe. They most often appear within 1 to 3 weeks after you come into contact with the virus. They may last up to 3 weeks.

Warning symptoms include:

  • Itching of the lips or skin around mouth
  • Burning near the lips or mouth area
  • Tingling near the lips or mouth area

Before blisters appear, you may have:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Painful swallowing

Blisters or a rash may form on you’re:

  • Gums
  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Throat

Many blisters are called an outbreak. You may have:

  • Red blisters that break open and leak
  • Small blisters filled with clear yellowish fluid
  • Several smaller blisters that may grow together into a large blister
  • Yellow and crusty blister as it heals, which eventually turns into pink skin

Symptoms may be triggered by:

  • Menstruation or hormone changes
  • Being out in the sun
  • Fever
  • Stress

If the symptoms return later, they are usually milder.

Treatment

Symptoms may go away on their own without treatment in 1 to 2 weeks. Your health care provider can prescribe antiviral medicines to reduce pain and make symptoms go away sooner. Medicines used to treat mouth sores include Acyclovir, Famciclovir and Valacyclovir. These work best if you take them when you have warning signs of a mouth sore, before any blisters develop. If you get mouth sores frequently, you may need to take these medicines all the time. Antiviral skin creams may also be used. However, they are expensive and often only shorten the outbreak by a few hours to a day.

The following steps can also help make you feel better:

  • Apply ice or a warm washcloth to the sores to help ease pain.
  • Wash the blisters gently with germ-fighting (antiseptic) soap and water. This helps prevent spreading the virus to other body areas.
  • Avoid hot beverages, spicy and salty foods, and citrus.
  • Gargle with cool water or eat popsicles.
  • Rinse with salt water.
  • Take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS may be reached at The Dental Place, located at 6738 W Sunrise Blvd, Suite #105, Plantation, Fl. 33313. Dr Robinson may be contacted at 954-792-1857 or visit the website www.dentalplace4u.com

 

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