By Jelena Antic & James Lott, PharmD
Home → Cold Sore Stages
# What are cold sores?
# STAGE 1: THE BEGINNING
# STAGE 2: THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION
# STAGE 3: THE GROWTH
# STAGE 4: THE BURST
# STAGE 5: THE CRUST
# HOW TO TREAT COLD SORES
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, may look different on different people, and may appear in different locations or around the lip.
However, the stages through which cold sores pass are common in everyone even if they might physically look different.
It all begins with a tingle.
Cold sores will initially present as tingling, burning, or itching sensation on or around the lip. There may also be some redness or dryness in the spot where the cold sore is developing.
This is the stage where you want to start treating it! Treating it at this stage won’t completely prevent it from coming on, but it may reduce the duration and severity.
About 1-2 days after the initial tingling sensation begins, fluid-filled blisters or clusters of blisters will begin to form.
The skin around the blisters may also become red.
The blisters will start to grow and can even merge with neighboring blisters to form one larger, fluid-filled blister.
After a few days, the blisters will start to burst, releasing a clear fluid.
Take caution not to spread this fluid anywhere else on your body or to anyone else, because this is when the virus is most contagious.
The open sores where the blisters have popped will look red and shallow.
After the blisters burst, they will begin to dry up and scab over. During this stage, the cold sores can be a yellow or brown color.
The scabs will eventually completely dry up and flake off on their own. Do not pick at them because it can make it worse and you will spread the virus to others. Cold sores generally will not leave a scar if you don’t pick at them.
Some people may only have a cold sore once in their lives, while others get them several times a year. Those that are all too familiar with the initial tingle will know that it’s time to do something about it.
Whether that be running to the store to grab some pain relievers, or grabbing a cold compress to put to the lip, most people will generally try at-home relief before thinking to schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Feel the tingle coming on and want to get a prescription without needing to see a doctor? Check out scripted.co and see how a pharmacist may be able to help!