Cold sores are an embarrassing reality for many people. Like many other embarrassing topics, there is a lot of incorrect information available about them. There are many reasons why the truth becomes so skewed over these types of issues, but often it is just because people hide their problem and do not seek answers from professionals. Some myths are harmless, but many of them do cause damage because they prevent people from seeking genuine solutions or protecting themselves properly.
Myth: Cold sores and genital herpes are the same thing.
Reality: Both are caused by the herpes virus, but different strains of the virus. Having a cold sore does not mean someone has an STD.
Myth: Cold sores are not contagious or can only be passed to someone through kissing.
Reality: Cold sores are very contagious and are passed by sharing towels and utensils and even shaking hands if the person with an active cold sore touches their face immediately prior to shaking hands.
Myth: Cold sores inside the mouth are called canker sores.
Reality: Cold sores can develop inside the mouth, but they are not canker sores. Cankers are caused by vitamin deficiencies, certain foods and trauma to the mouth. They are not caused by a virus and are not contagious.
Myth: Once a cold sore is dry and crusted over it is no longer contagious.
Reality: Any of the fluid from a cold sore can spread the virus. A sore that has scabbed over is in the process of healing, but it can still contain fluid that will pass the virus on to others.
Myth: Nothing prevents an outbreak or helps a cold sore heal faster.
Reality: There are ways to reduce the length of an outbreak and even ways to prevent them from occurring. Inhibitor devices are capable of assisting with both of these tasks. A healthy diet, restricted sun exposure and OTC and prescription medications are also useful to many people.
Myth: People only get cold sores when they are sick with a cold or the flu.
Reality: Cold sores can appear at any time and have numerous potential triggers. Many people experience cold sores more often when they are sick because their immune system is weakened.
Myth: Breaking a cold sore blister makes it heal faster.
Reality: Draining the fluid from a cold sore may potentially help it to dry up a little faster, but it is far more likely to cause additional problems. Irritating a sore can lead to infection, make the sore larger and more noticeable and cause additional sores.
Myth: Only people with cold sores have the virus.
Reality: Current estimates state that between 70 to 90 percent of the adult population in the United States has the HSV-1 virus. Of those people, only 30 percent suffer reoccurring outbreaks and many will never experience an outbreak.
Myth: A cold sore will always be on the lips.
Reality: Cold sores are most commonly seen on the lips, but they can appear anywhere on the face or body. However, it is rare for outbreaks of cold sores to appear on the body in people with a healthy immune system.
Myth: The virus will eventually go away.
Reality: Unfortunately, once the virus is contracted it remains in the nervous system for life. People that suffered with cold sores during childhood may believe they are healed when they stop experiencing outbreaks, but this is usually because of hormonal or lifestyle changes. If tested they would discover the virus is still in their body.
Myth: You can forget about them after they heal.
Reality: Anyone with reoccurring outbreaks must always remain vigilant about preventing them. This means beginning their treatment method at the first tingle and being aware of common actions that could trigger an outbreak. Examples are cosmetic procedures like skin peels and waxing. Both are known to encourage outbreaks and a chemical peel may initiate a severe outbreak of multiple sores.