Cold sores are small, fluid-filled blisters that typically form on or around the lips. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)is what causes them (HSV).

Most HSV cases occur in infants or young children. This happens because the virus can spread easily among young children who share toys, towels, or other objects. The virus can spread to others through close contacts, such as kissing or sharing eating utensils. Adults can also get HSV if they haven’t been infected before. 

It’s estimated that about half of all people in the United States have HSV-1, the type of virus that typically causes cold sores.

Cold sores are most common in adults between 20 and 40 years old. However, children and older adults can get cold sores, too. 

Stages of a Cold Sore

Here’s what you can expect during each stage of a cold sore.

Stage 1: Tingling Sensation

The first stage of a cold sore is called the prodrome stage. During this phase, you may feel a burning or tingling sensation on your lip. This happens when the virus replicates in the nerve cells and moves toward the surface of your skin. The prodrome stage can last for several hours up to two days. 

Stage 2: Blister Formation

The next stage is blister formation. The blister will appear as a small, red bump that soon turns into a fluid-filled sac. The sac will eventually rupture and leak fluid, which will then crust over. This stage usually lasts for three to four days. 

Stage 3: Crusting Over and Healing

In the final stage, the blister begins to crust over and heal. You may also experience itching, swelling, and tenderness during this phase as your body works to repair the damaged tissue. The crust will eventually fall off, revealing new skin beneath. This stage usually lasts for about a week. 

How Long can Cold Sores be Contagious?

The short answer is that cold sores are infectious for as long as the sore is present. This means that you can spread the virus to others from the very beginning of the prodrome stage (when you first feel the tingling sensation) until the sore has completely healed.

The most contagious stage of a cold sore is when the blister has burst, and fluid is seeping out of it. But, even if the sore is dry and crusted over, you can still spread the virus.

To avoid spreading the virus, it’s important to practice good hygiene and avoid touching the sore. You should also avoid sharing utensils, towels, or other objects with someone who has a cold sore. If you’ve got a cold sore, it’s also important to avoid kissing or engaging in other forms of close contact.

It’s important to know that if you have HSV-1, you can transfer the infection even if you don’t have a visible cold sore. This is because the virus can be shed from your skin even when there are no visible symptoms. In fact, when HSV-1 patients show no symptoms at all, they are most contagious.

Factors that Affect Cold Sore Contagiousness

While cold sores generally start to heal within a week, they are highly contagious during this time. There are a number of factors that affect cold sore contagiousness, including:

1) The size of the sore: The larger the sore, the more contagious it is.

2) The stage of the sore: Cold sores are most contagious when they are in the blister or crust stage.

3) The location of the sore: Sores on the lips or nose are more contagious than sores on other parts of the body.

4) The level of viral shedding: Cold sores are most contagious when there is a high level of viral shedding, which usually occurs during the early stages of the sore.

5) The immune system: People with weakened immune systems are more likely to spread cold sores.

When does the Spreading of the Cold Sore Stop?

Once a cold sore has begun to heal, it is less contagious and poses less of a risk to others. The healing process typically takes about 7-10 days, during which time the blister will scab over. Once the scab falls off, the cold sore is no longer contagious. 

However, it is still possible to spread the virus even after the cold sore has healed. This is because HSV can remain dormant in the body for long periods of time before resurfacing. For this reason, it is important to always practice good hygiene and avoid close contact with others if you have a history of cold sores.

Warning for Babies and People with a Weak Immune System

While cold sores are usually harmless, they can cause serious health complications in babies and people with a weakened immune system.

If you’ve got a cold sore and are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s important to avoid close contact with your baby. This is because HSV can be passed to a baby through contact with infected saliva.

Cold sores can also be more severe in people with a weakened immune system, such as people with HIV/AIDS or people undergoing chemotherapy. If you have a weakened immune system, it’s important to see a doctor if you develop a cold sore.

How to be Less Contagious?

There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of spreading the virus:

1. Avoid close contact with others, such as kissing or sharing utensils.

2. Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands and using a clean towel to dry your face.

3. Avoid touching the sore, especially with your bare hands.

4. Disinfect any items that come into contact with the sore, such as towels, washcloths, and clothing.

5. Avoid sharing lip balm, lipstick, or other personal items.

6. If you wear contact lenses, be sure to clean them thoroughly and avoid touching them with your hands.

7. Do not engage in oral sex when you have a cold sore.

What are the Symptoms of Cold Sores? 

The first time you have HSV-1, you may not have any symptoms at all. Or you may have flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headache, or muscle aches. You may also have swollen lymph nodes in your neck or other parts of your body. These symptoms usually last for about a week. 

After the first time you have HSV-1, it lies dormant (inactive) inside your nerve cells until something triggers it to become active again. When it becomes active again, it travels back down your nerve cell to your skin and causes another outbreak of cold sores. Some things that can trigger an outbreak include: 

– Fever or stressful events 

– Exposure to sunlight 

– Hormonal changes during menstruation 

– Trauma to your lips (such as from dental work) 

How do you Get Rid of Cold Sores?

Cold sores usually go away on their own within a week or two, but there are some things you can do to speed up the healing process. The first step is to identify your triggers. Are you under a lot of stress? Do you have a cold or the flu? Are you getting enough sleep? Once you know what’s causing your cold sores, you can take steps to avoid those triggers. 

If stress is the culprit, try yoga or meditation to help calm your mind and body. If you’re not getting enough rest, make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. And if you’re sick, do your best to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. 

There are also some topical treatments that can help relieve the pain and itching associated with cold sores. You can find these over-the-counter at most drugstores. Apply a lip balm or cream with sunscreen to help soothe and protect your lips from further damage. And don’t forget the basics— Cold sores spread easily, so make sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. 

What are Some Home Remedies for Cold Sores?

There are a few home remedies that may help speed up the healing process:

1. Apply a Cold Compress 

One of the quickest ways to get rid of a cold sore is to apply a cold compress as soon as possible. The cold temperature will help reduce swelling and redness, and it will also numb the area so that you can find relief from the pain. To make a cold compress, simply wrap ice cubes in a clean cloth or use a frozen bag of peas. Apply the compress to your cold sore for 10 minutes, then remove it for 10 minutes. Repeat this process until the pain subsides. 

2. Apply Aloe Vera Gel 

Aloe vera gel contains soothing properties that can help reduce inflammation and speed up healing. To use aloe vera gel as a home remedy for cold sores, simply apply the gel directly to your cold sore using a cotton swab. Leave the gel on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Repeat this process 3-4 times per day until your cold sore is gone. 

3. Put Lemon Balm on your Cold Sore  

Lemon balm is an herb that has antiviral properties, which make it effective in treating infections like cold sores. To use lemon balm as a remedy, mix one teaspoon of lemon balm powder with enough water to form a paste. Using a cotton swab, apply the paste to your cold sore and leave it on for 30 minutes (at least) before rinsing it off with cool water. Continue this process 3-4 times a day until your cold sore heals.

4. Apply Tea Tree Oil 

Tea tree oil is an essential oil with antiviral and antibacterial properties. These properties make it effective in treating infections like cold sores. To make tea tree oil therapy, combine one teaspoon of tea tree oil with two teaspoons of olive oil. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it to the affected area. Repeat this process at least three times per day until the cold sore fades.


Cold sores are infectious and can be passed on to others through direct contact. It’s crucial to take action to stop the virus from spreading if you’ve got a cold sore. You can also check our article on Children’s Cold Sores Treatment.

It’s also important to know that cold sores can take several days or even weeks to heal. If you’ve got a cold sore, be patient and do your best to keep the area clean and dry. There are also several home remedies that can help speed up the healing process.

If you have any questions or concerns about cold sores, be sure to talk to your doctor.