Eczema and cold sores are conditions that are usually independent of each other. The bad news is that they can combine to cause eczema herpeticum.

While eczema is a painful and at times debilitating skin condition, you can treat it. Due in part to moisturizing and hydrating skin creams, minor cases can be controlled. If HSV-1 spreads to an area with eczema, you’ll need to abide by more precautions.

These two unique conditions can weave a tangled web. In this guide, you will learn how to treat both eczema and cold sores. You’ll also find out more about eczema herpeticum.

What is Eczema Herpeticum?  

This is a serious cold sore complication. The condition is caused by direct contact with a cold sore when you are in the midst of a flare-up.[1] The “mixing” of HSV-1 (usually from the fingers) with eczema skin can cause this condition. One notable example would be touching your own active cold sore with your fingers and then using them to rub/scratch an existing skin region.

If you are infected with HSV-1 during an outbreak, the compromised skin can change rapidly. While it is a condition that naturally causes the skin to be irritated, and thus leads to itchiness, HSV-1 can make it much worse.

The occurrence of eczema herpeticum can cause a blister-type rash that can spread rapidly. If the area is left untreated, the consequences can be dire. It can potentially lead to organ damage or death. Although rare, this can be the outcome if not met with resistance.

In the medical community, eczema herpeticum is viewed as a dermatological emergency.[2]

To summarize:

  • It is essentially the byproduct of active HSV-1 coming in direct contact with eczema-compromised skin. Two distinct conditions clash to form a serious medical issue.
  • Because it naturally irritates the skin, which causes redness, rashes, burning, cracking, etc., the introduction of HSV-1 is dangerous. The herpes simplex virus can find easy viral spreading locations due to multiple skin abrasions.
  • Although rare, it can be fatal. If not promptly medically treated, the spreading rash can impact vital organs.

Can Eczema Cause Cold Sores? 

Eczema, just like many medical conditions that tax the body, can trigger cold sores in HSV-1 carriers. However, as noted, it is the merger of these two conditions that is the most problematic.

If you have both eczema and HSV-1, it is vital that you manage your fever blisters and avoid self-contamination. If you are actively treating the herpes virus, you have a better chance of keeping the virus away from your skin.

The ability to keep your cold sores quarantined and avoid spreading the virus is paramount. While both conditions can be painful and aggressive in their own right, when joined they can create a major issue.

While not a pleasant scenario, if a skin region becomes infected with HSV-1, symptoms will occur in roughly 5-12 days. The infected rash, now contaminated with HSV-1, will become even more aggressive. From a visual standpoint, cold sores of the skin are likely the outcome.

To recap:

  • Eczema can lead to fever blisters. While that is a concern in its own right, the primary issue is the possibility of the two conditions mixing.
  • It is vital that you treat your cold sores immediately. The sooner they can be healed the less likely cross-contamination will occur. It is also important to avoid touching an active sore. Other than applying the treatment, you should never touch a sore. The risk of using your HSV-1 contaminated fingers and simply touching an existing eczema region is too great.
  • If it compromised skin becomes infected with HSV-1, the symptoms will materialize in roughly one week. It will then take over thus producing an aggressive rash, redness, and significant irritation.

Is Eczema Herpeticum a Serious Infection?

It causes large cluster-type blisters that can cover a large surface area, and it can also cause a great deal of pain. As the blisters burst, they can be quite itchy and even bleed. Most blisters produce pus or a fluid that has a yellowish tint.

In addition to the blister coverage, it can lead to swollen lymph nodes and a high fever. Chills and intense fatigue are also common. These symptoms typically begin as soon as blisters appear on the infected skin location.

Although briefly noted earlier, it is considered a medical emergency simply due to its potential complications.[3] Many of which are quite debilitating and potentially fatal.

It should be noted, and critically so, that it is particularly dangerous to children.[4] This is because adequate immune system support might not be fully present. Unfortunately, this condition is more common in children than any other age bracket.

The notable complications include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Intense scarring in the aftermath caused by the severity of the blisters.
  • If HSV-1 directly interacts with eczema that is located on the face, it can lead to herpetic keratitis. This is a potentially catastrophic herpes infection of the cornea. If not treated immediately and properly, this complication can lead to blindness.
  • Organ failure. While obviously the direst of complications, organ failure can occur if eczema herpeticum spreads to the brain, lungs, liver, etc.[5]

It should be made clear that eczema is not the only skin condition that can lead to eczema herpeticum. HSV-1 directly interacting with damaged skin is problematic. Burned skin and various forms of skin cracking and irritation can be cause for concern if you are an HSV-1 carrier.

Eczema Herpeticum

How Are Cold Sores and Eczema Related?

Although unrelated medically, cold sores and eczema are all toxic when joined together. Additionally, both conditions, when independent of each other, can cause similar symptoms. Blisters, pain, potential fever, lymph node swelling, etc.

Even though it naturally has a much greater coverage area than fever blisters, HSV-1 spreading can be its own issue. While the majority of HSV-1 outbreaks are confined to the lips, spreading of the virus can almost act like eczema in many ways.

While these two conditions stand alone, they are both severe if not treated properly.

To summarize:

  • Although not related in the direct sense, both conditions share similar symptoms. Additionally, both ailments can produce some very serious issues when joined together.

How to Treat Cold Sores and Eczema at the Same Time

They can be treated if a proper diagnosis has been made. This particularly applies to eczema.

Treatment for this skin disorder usually involves basic changes in skin care. The introduction of mild soaps and potent moisturizing creams and lotions can help to improve the condition greatly. Stress management can also serve to prevent flare-ups.

The introduction of a humidifier can also improve the air quality in your home and help improve your skin. Potent creams may also be administered by your physician in more moderate to severe cases.

As it relates to cold sores, the path is quite simple. Find the OTC cold sore product that works for you and stick with it. If you can treat your outbreak at the first sign of symptoms you can potentially eliminate sores in a matter of days. This, by default, will prevent HSV-1 from contacting any eczema symptoms that you could be experiencing.

eczema and the cold sore virus

To recap:

  • Eczema is treated with somewhat of a lifestyle change. Altering your soap selection and implementing various skin healing and moisturizing creams can help. Additionally, keeping the air within your home a bit moist can improve your skin. Implementing a small humidifier, preferably in your bedroom, can prevent your skin from becoming dry.
  • Cold sores can be treated with a quality OTC selection, such as the Virulite Cold Sore Machine. The sooner you begin treatment, the easier that the situation can be rectified.

Healing Cold Sores is the Key

Although it is certainly possible to treat cold sores and eczema at the same time, managing your cold sores is paramount. This conclusion is drawn because it covers a larger area of the body and is almost impossible to be completely silenced.

On the flipside, a cold sore outbreak can be managed and removed within days, perhaps as little as 72 hours. While eczema on its own can be really painful, it is not a critical condition. It can be treated, and daily comfort can be found. However, the introduction and spreading of HSV-1 into an eczema region of the skin can be very serious. This is why healing your fever blisters ASAP is the critical takeaway.

If you have eczema and find yourself with a cold sore, do not panic. Remember to consult your physician as soon as possible, as this condition can lead to serious complications. Treat it with an OTC medication and also wash your hands immediately after applying treatment. Stellar hygiene can do wonders when attempting to win this complicated medical battle.


  2. Liaw F-Y, Huang C-F, Hsueh J-T, Chiang C-P. Eczema herpeticum: A medical emergency. Canadian Family Physician. 2012;58(12):1358-1361.
  3. Finlow C, Thomas J. Disseminated herpes simplex virus: a case of eczema herpeticum causing viral encephalitis. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2018 Mar;48(1):36-39. doi: 10.4997/JRCPE.2018.108.
  4. Luca NJC, Lara-Corrales I, Pope E. Eczema herpeticum in children: clinical features and factors predictive of hospitalization. J Pediatr. 2012;161:671–5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.03.057.
  5. Tupe CL, Weiler BA, Verceles AC, McCurdy MT. A Fatal Case of Eczema Herpeticum With Septic Shock Due to Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Am J Crit Care. 2016 Jul;25(4):379-82. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2016495.