What is Oral Herpes?
Oral herpes as the name suggests occur on mouth and are also known as Herpes labialis, fever blisters or cold sores. This viral disease of oral herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus, which is of mainly two types – Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV-1) or Herpes Simplex Virus II (HSV-2); however HSV-1 is said to be responsible in most of the cases for oral herpes outbreak and HSV-2 is more responsible for causing genital herpes. HSV-1 has milder and less frequent occurrences as compared to HSV-2.
The herpes simplex virus is highly contagious it and can even infect the other body parts. If the oral herpes virus spreads further to infect the eye region it can be very dangerous so much that the person may even lose eye sight, hence proper care must be taken to deal with these blisters. The sores which vary in size can be itchy and painful and contain yellow fluid like pus. As oral herpes is contagious it can spread to another person if a person comes in contact with the infected person’s saliva, skin, genitals or mucous membranes through which oral herpes transmission becomes easy.
The herpes virus never leaves the body once it has entered, it resides in the body in latent form, it lays dormant until reactivated again, hence when the virus is reactivated one experiences cold sores again by showing the first signs of oral herpes, hence once the herpes simplex virus enters the body one has to experience cold sores more than once in his life; and in some severe cases it may even occur for some 14 times in a lifetime.
Most children catch the oral herpes virus as an asymptomatic infection. It is more likely to happen when children come in contact with adults who touch, kiss or peck the child which aid in spreading oral herpes. The case of oral herpes can be highly dangerous for infants, very old people, people suffering from HIV/AIDS or who have had any organ transplantation.
Living with a partner who is infected with herpes simplex virus can be a little difficult, as extra caution needs to be taken. Also, during child-birth the mother should take care not to trigger the latent herpes virus so that if doesn’t affect the child.
Oral Herpes Symptoms
The most common symptom of oral herpes are painful sores on the lips, gums, tongue, inside of the cheeks which may even spread to other region of the face. These symptoms occur between 1st to 3rd week of infection, which may last for a week or two, after which the herpes virus becomes latent and may reappear again when the person is in menstruation, or suffers from illness, fever or emotional or mental stress or when exposed to sun or due to some undetectable reasons.
Usually the symptoms collapse within 1 to 2 weeks but anti viral medicines can be taken to get rid of the sores and the pain. The herpes simplex virus gets an entry into our body through the skin cells or skin tissue, at which time the herpes virus does not show any sign of oral herpes. After which the herpes virus starts reproducing in the host cell, during the course of which the host cell is destroyed and early signs of oral herpes are seen which are basically in the form of itchiness, pain, inflammation on the skin region where the sores are likely to erupt, some people even experience fever or chills.
The major oral herpes symptoms in men and oral herpes symptoms in women are almost same, which are as follows:
- Itchiness, inflammation or redness on the affected region of skin;
- Fever or chills;
- Headache, muscle ache, fatigue;
- Red blisters on the infected area;
- Blisters containing yellow-ish fluid;
- When the blisters break open the yellow fluid flows;
- The blisters are then covered up by yellow skin that is when they start to heal, it is also called crusting
- Slowly the yellow skin starts flaking away and is replaced by the natural pink skin
In most cases, when cold sores re-occur, they occur on the same place of first infection. After each occurrence the blisters when gets healed completely do not generally leave any sign of mark or scar.
Oral Herpes Treatment
Oral herpes or cold sores generally cure on their own; but effective medication can be received to reduce the pain and to suppress the re-occurrences or frequency of the cold sores.
It is most effective to take the treatment for oral herpes as you notice the first signs of oral herpes. Even if the sores have erupted on your skin surface prescription medicines can be taken which helps in reducing the pain and in increasing the healing time.
Antiviral creams can be applied on the surface of the skin when you notice the first signs of symptoms like itchiness, inflammation or tenderness of the skin.
Medicines like ibuprofen, acetaminophen are the most common medicines for curing the cold sores once they have errupted, and for people who suffer from oral herpes more frequently can take medicines like Zovirax, Famir or Valtrex. Ointments like tetracaine , dibucaine, lidocaine or benzocaine can be taken to heal the sores. However, it is important that you take any kind of medicine only after consulting your doctor.
Sometimes, natural remedies can also help treat the symptoms to a great extent. As the cold sore erupts over the skin, gently rub an ice cube over it for almost 15 minutes. The ice helps in freezing the herpes simplex virus and thus can stop it from spreading. Keep applying ice repeatedly with small gaps of a few seconds. Another way to avoid herpes simplex virus to reoccur, take the help of Garlic which has wonderful properties to boost the immunity system of one’s body. So, whenever you are hit by cold sores simple chew some garlic cloves. If not being able to take it directly mix it with some other eatable or take garlic tablets.
Because no direct treatment of oral herpes is available in the medical science, it is crucial that you take proper precaution to save yourself from the conditions which can trigger oral herpes. Hence, take care not to over expose your body to sun, mental or emotional stress, and fatigue; and follow a healthy life-style to have a strong immune system.
Oral Herpes Diagnosis
The most common form of diagnosis for oral herpes is “herpes culture”. Wherein the the flakes or scraps from the blister are taken to be tested in the lab. Even without a test if one experiences the reoccurrence of cold sore on the same exact location, one can be sure that it is caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Diagnosis of oral herpes is also done through blood tests like – Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) IgG ( immunoglobin) and IgM (immunoglobin) serology( blood) tests. With these tests the level of antibodies present in the blood is checked along with the titer levels of immunoglobin. These tests are generally expensive.
Once you are diagnosed with oral herpes, you can resort to medical treatment for the reduction of pain from the blisters. Though, oral herpes heal on their own but if the blisters persist on the skin for over 2 weeks, then consult your doctor for immediate help. After the symptoms heal completely, that doesn’t mean that the virus has been destroyed, the herpes simplex virus resides in the body in the latent form and gets active again each time when you see re-occurrences of the cold sores on your body.
Unfortunately, as there is no medicine available for eliminating the herpes simplex virus once it enters our body, nor is there any vaccine to prevent it from entering our body. Hence, all that the infected person can do is take medicines to reduce the pain when cold sores occur or take medicines in the initial stage when the first signs of the symptoms are noticed; and also avoid the conditions which trigger the symptoms.