Herpes Simplex Infections (Cold Sores) - Symptoms

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What are the signs and symptoms of cold sores?

The hallmark symptom of herpes is a group of blisters on a red base. These blisters dry up rapidly and leave scabs that last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the infection. This pattern has important implications for the many people who fear they have herpes but don't: If something lasts for weeks, it is unlikely to be herpes.

Herpes infections feel dry and crusty, and they sometimes itch. Some patients have a "prodrome," which is when certain symptoms occur before the actual sores becomes fully evident. The prodrome to herpes infections typically involves a burning or tingling sensation that precedes the appearance of blisters by a few hours or a day or two.

Return to Cold Sores (Nongenital Herpes Simplex Infections)

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Comment from: Marsha, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 12

I first learned that I had the virus when I noticed a large group of blisters on the back of my arm. I thought it might have been a spider bite until a doctor told me it was herpes simplex and that it was most likely caused by either nerves or too much sun. I have had it for over 25 years. During that time the frequency & severity have decreased - now it happens maybe once or twice a year, always in the same spot (the back of one arm, just above the elbow). It begins either by the area itching or having a sore, slightly red spot, then breaking into small blisters. I can't always pinpoint a cause (undue stress, etc.) I haven't found anything that stops it but find that ice applications seem to make it feel better and decrease the severity and duration. The dr. suggested L-Lysine but taking it made me feel ill. Other than ice now, I just try to keep it protected from scraping and dirt by covering it with a loose Band-Aid and wait it out.

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