Do Most People Get Cold Sores?
Transmission and Symptoms
A cold sore is spread through direct contact with the cold sore or indirect contact through sharing items such as towels, toothbrush, razor, drinks, or utensils (see Transmission of Cold Sores).
When the cold sore virus is first transmitted, symptoms do not typically appear. In fact, up to 85 percent of people will not have symptoms with the first infection. However, the body is not able to completely get rid of the herpes virus. Therefore, at some point in the future, the herpes virus can become active again (see Cold Sore Triggers) and cause symptoms.
The symptoms can vary. Some people may have early symptoms one to three days before fever blisters. They may feel pain, itching, tingling, or a burning sensation.
Others may just develop blisters. These can be small, sometimes painful, fluid-filled blisters around the lips or corner of the mouth. Over several days, the blisters tend to merge and then collapse. A yellowish crust often forms over the sores, which usually heal without scarring within two weeks.
(Click Cold Sore Symptoms to learn more.)
There is no cold sore cure; however, a cold sore will get better on its own, even without treatment. For someone who gets them frequently, healthcare providers can prescribe one of several medications approved for the treatment of cold sores. Some medicines are also available without a prescription. All of these medicines work best if used at the first signs of a cold sore (symptoms may include tingling, itching, burning, or redness).