Robin Borkowsky Rubell, MD, FAAD
Dermatologist located in Mid-Town, New York, NY & Garden City, NY
Cold sores and fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and can be unsightly and embarrassing. Dr. Borkowsky Rubell understands the emotional distress herpes can cause and provides effective treatments to relieve symptoms and prevent recurrence. Call or schedule an appointment using the online booking tool.
Herpes Q & A
What is herpes?
Herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The two types of herpes simplex viruses are herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), an oral form of the virus and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the genital form. HSV-1 usually affects the area around your mouth while HSV-2 more often affects the genitals and is considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, both HSV 1 and 2 can occur on the mouth, face, and genitals.
Herpes is highly contagious, and more than 50% of the United States population has HSV-1, and about 15% have HSV-2. The virus is transmitted from person to person through oral contact like kissing, oral to genital contact, or through genital contact. There is no cure for the herpes virus, but you can successfully treat and manage symptoms.
What are herpes symptoms?
In many cases, you won’t even know you’ve been infected with herpes for months or even years after you get it. If you do experience symptoms right after coming in contact with the herpes virus, it’s usually within the first four days. This outbreak is considered a primary infection and symptoms, which may be severe, often include:
- Blisters or ulcerations around your mouth or genitals
- Enlarged, tender lymph nodes
- Pain and itching around blisters
- Red skin blisters
- Muscle aches
Cold sores near your mouth may appear a few days after you have a burning or tingling sensation around your lips. The blisters may ooze fluid and then crust over as they heal. An HSV-1 outbreak might also include a fever and sore throat.
Cold sores usually heal on their own in a couple of weeks, but if you have a weakened immune system, your cold sores don't heal, or your symptoms recur, it's a good idea to seek medical attention. Adults and children who have certain medical conditions including eczema, severe burns, or have had chemotherapy to treat cancer may have a weaker immune system and therefore a higher risk of contracting herpes.
What is the treatment for herpes?
Although there is no cure for herpes, treatments can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms and prevent or decrease the intensity and frequency of future outbreaks. Home remedies include:
- Soaking in a warm sitz bath or saltwater
- Applying petroleum jelly to cold sores
- Taking over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Avoiding sexual activity to avoid transmitting herpes
- Applying ice packs to the affected sores
For herpes outbreaks, Dr. Borkowsky may prescribe an antiviral medication to prevent the herpes virus from multiplying further. This type of medication helps lesions heal faster and reduces their severity.
If you do experience herpes outbreaks more than six times a year, Dr. Borkowsky may suggest a suppressive treatment or a daily antiviral medication to reduce the severity of symptoms and risk of transmission to others.
Call or schedule an appointment online to learn more.