Most people know that cold sores are contagious. If you see someone with an open fever blister, you should avoid coming into direct contact with that person until the area has completely healed. Of course, that includes things like touching, kissing, toothbrushes, lipsticks, food, etc. But we don’t often think about the risks of getting cold sores from sharing drinks, cigarettes, and utensils.
Cold sores are highly contagious, and not just from direct contact. You can pick up the HSV-1 virus from drinking from the same cup, using someone else’s utensils, or passing a cigarette back and forth. That’s why you should always tell your partner that you get cold sores.
While cold sores go through stages and are more contagious during certain phases, contact should be avoided the whole time. If you know someone who has a cold sore or is just getting over one, it’s important not to share anything with them that could have touched the open sore at some point.
When you contract a cold sore from someone, you’re getting the herpes simplex virus. You may have already had it from an earlier experience. It’s the virus that causes fever blisters to flare up in the first place. The herpes virus typically remains dormant inside you, until a flare-up occurs.
How Does Sharing Objects with Others Cause Cold Sores?
It’s true that cold sores are the most contagious at the stage – when they rupture. During this stage, the blister that has formed bursts open. This typically causes oozing, and can even be painful. It’s also during this stage that the cold sore is opened up. That makes it easy for anyone to come in contact with it to contract the virus easily.
When a cold sore scabs over, it is also still incredibly contagious. The scabbing process can be slow going at times. If a scab cracks open or falls off before the sore is healed, it can open up the blister again.
A common myth, however, is that cold sores are only contagious during the rupturing stage, or only when you can visibly see the sore. They are contagious from the moment a person feels the initial symptoms, such as a tingling feeling on the lips.
From the first sign of symptoms, even before a blister appears, the virus is contagious. Sharing drinks, cigarettes, or utensils with someone who has these symptoms can make you susceptible to getting a cold sore. Unfortunately, unless the person experiencing the symptoms recognizes what they are, they may not even know they’re contagious.
How Long Does a Cold Sore Live on Objects?
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the HSV-1 virus can survive outside the body on other hosts for several hours. Sometimes, it can survive several weeks, depending on conditions. The virus lasts for longer in warmer environments with more humidity.
So, just waiting a few seconds before taking a drink of your friends’ water won’t prevent the spreading of a cold sore. The virus can live on a variety of objects. Unless the objects are properly cleaned and sanitized, the risk of spreading is high, whether you’ve had a cold sore before or not.
How to Prevent the Spread of Cold Sores
Avoid direct contact with the sore. Avoid sharing anything that has touched your mouth, as well. Granted, this can be easier said than done. We don’t often think about the things we share with the people close to us on a daily basis that could infect them.
Keep the following tips in mind when you’re trying to prevent the spread of cold sores:
- Everything can become a carrier. This includes drinks, cigarettes, utensils, razors, and lip balms. Don’t share anything if you have a cold sore, or know someone who does. After the sore is healed, everything needs to be disinfected before you start using it again.
- Be careful what you touch. We touch our faces multiple times a day without even realizing it. If you have a cold sore and accidentally touch it, it can spread to whatever you might touch next. That includes everything from door handles to keyboards. You never know if you/they might be spreading the virus. Wash your hands as often as possible to help reduce the risk of spreading by touch.
- Avoid direct contact with the sore. Don’t engage in kissing with someone who has a cold sore, or it’s very likely you’ll contract the virus. That includes the entire face, not just their mouth, as you can get cold sores near the eyes. Complete avoidance of the area is necessary to be safe.
Treatment Options & General Advice
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of cold sores is to start a treatment plan as soon as possible. Cold sore treatments range from over-the-counter products, like Abreva and HERP-B-GONE.
A cold sore virus will go away eventually, but it can take two weeks or more to do so. Using a treatment will not only ease the pain, but it can speed up the healing time. The faster your cold sore heals, the lower the risk of it spreading.
Keep the warning signs of a cold sore in mind at all times. If you’ve never experienced a fever blister before, knowing the initial symptoms is crucial, so you don’t risk spreading the virus to friends, family, etc.
You can get cold sores from sharing drinks, cigarettes, utensils, and more. A cold sore needs to be completely healed for the risk of contagion to be gone. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know when someone has a cold sore in the early stages. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sharing things that you put in your mouth or face with anyone.