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Cold Sores

Cold sores are painful sores that you can get on your lips. They can look a bit like a spot with fluid in it and then they burst and can be very painful.

Cold sores are caused by a herpes virus (HSV1) which means that they are contagious (can pass from person to person). There are many types of herpes virus, another of which causes genital herpes (HSV 2) which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) . HSV 1 is not usually sexually transmitted. But, if you give oral sex when you have a cold sore, your partner might get genital herpes.

Ways to avoid getting cold sores

The virus is transmitted in saliva, so sharing lip balm, toothbrushes, drinks or kisses with people who might have cold sores is a no-no.

Once you get the virus, it stays in your body and that means you might get outbreaks of cold sores throughout your life. The Herpes virus cannot be cured, it will always be in your body.

Ways to prevent future outbreaks:

Sun, stress and sickness can bring out the virus so you could try and avoid these things. This is difficult to do. We don't know anyone who doesn't get stressed from time to time.

Ways to make your cold sores less painful

  • Suck ice cubes.
  • Stay away from salty, spicy and acidic foods (oranges, tomatoes) as this can make the sores sting.
  • When you get cold sores, many people get a tingling before the sore appears. You can use a cream called Acyclovir (from chemist, GP, CHYPS Plus) as soon as you feel this tingling. The earlier you put the cream on, the better it works. 
  • Don't pick at your cold sores as this might mean they get infected and spread.

Cold sores usually last about a week. If you are getting them very frequently or they are taking ages to go, come and have a chat with us.

Related Questions

  • Age: 15
    Gender: Female


    I suffer from really bad ingrown hairs on my legs a pubic area they leave really bad scars and just make my skin look ugly with lots of dark scars is they any way to solve this problem as its making me very self conscious


    Thank you for your question. From your description it sounds as if you may have folliculitis. This is an infection of the base of the hairs in the skin. It is a common problem that is not usually serious. Tiny pus-filled spots develop at the base of a hairs, often in groups and when they get better they can leave scars. Mild cases often resolve without treatment. Sometimes antibiotic creams or tablets are needed. In recurrent cases, antiseptic skin washes can be used. Do come into a CHYPS plus clinic or go to you GP for further advice.

  • Age: 25
    Gender: Female


    I have very bad facial breakouts...I have not had sex in years, but I decided to shave myself down there...now I'm scared because I have horrible tiny spreading itchy bumps down there....Could shaving have given me a disease or just a pimple irritation?


    Thank you for your question. It is difficult to tell what the problem is without seeing you but it does sound as if you have two very common problems. The first is possibly some degree of facial acne and the second may be folliculitis in the area you have shaved. Folliculitis is an infection of the base of the hairs (hair follicle) and usually occurs after shaving body hair. It often clears up on its own but if it is causing problems it can be treated by washing with an antiseptic product, antibiotic creams or if very severe antibiotic tablets. I suggest you go to your GP to check this is the problem.

    Also see zone 2 on the CHYPS Plus website for more about skin problems.