Cold sores can be extremely painful and distressing. They start off as red inflamed splotches near or on the mouth. Soon they become fluid filled blisters. In a few days these blisters collapse and become ulcers. Once they become scabs, they eventually dry out and fall off on their own.
The herpes simplex virus is very common. Unfortunately, the herpes has no cure. But there are treatments to help fasten the healing process. Treatments include oral antiviral medicine and topical ointments.
When someone has an outbreak of cold sores the first thing that they want to know is how long do cold sores last? The answer is roughly between one to two weeks. But, it can take more or less than this as well. It depends on a lot of things like the treatment, causal triggers, climate, environmental conditions, etc.
Cold sores form in five stages and how long each stage takes determines how long do cold sores last. Here are the five stages of the cold sores cycle.
Stage 1: The Tingling Sensation
After the virus has been activated due to any of the triggers, a tingling sensation is felt on or near the lips. From the time the virus is triggered till the tingling sensation starts, it can take anywhere between seven to ten days. A red puffiness starts to develop and the area starts to become sore. This is a lot similar to the sensation felt when a zit is about to break out.
Stage 2: Blisters Start to Appear
On the second or third day after the tingling sensation had started the cold sores start to become visible. Fluid filled blisters begin to appear. It can be one large blister or a bunch of small blisters. Blisters are usually small in size.
Stage 3: Blister Open Up
Around the fifth day from the first appearance of the red puffy bump, the blisters open up and start to leak clear fluids. This stage lasts one or two days at maximum. This is often the most painful and the most contagious stage. Contact with the fluid will spread the herpes virus to anyone. Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain hygiene at this stage. Avoid rubbing the area with anything, only dab it with a tissue. Make sure that hands are washed frequently. When the fluid stops leaking, the cold sore moves on to the next stage.
Stage 4: Scab Starts to Form
Around the seventh day from when it all started a scab will start to form in the place of the blister. The scab is like a yellowish crust formed over the sore. This indicates that the sore has started to heal. It makes the area dry and itchy. Avoid picking at the scab. If the scab breaks if may cause bleeding. This will only prolong the healing process. Try keeping the scab moist by applying Vaseline or cream to it.
Stage 5: Cold Sore Starts to Heal
Scabs will shed and form continually till the cold sore is fully healed in this final cold sore stage. From the time the first scab forms, depending on how you take care of it, it can take up to twelve days for the cold sore to heal. When the skin is completely healed no more scabs will form and a pinkish new skin will be revealed.