Cold sores, also called oral herpes, are highly contagious fluid-filled blisters on the lips and around the mouth. In most cases, cold sores are not that serious, but they can be life-threatening for people who have a weakened immune system such as people with AIDS. On the other hand, canker sores, also known as ulcerated canker are white ovals in the mouth. Canker sores can be very painful, but are less serious than cold sores, and more often than not, there’s nothing to worry about.
Cold sores are tiny, fluid-filled blisters that ooze and then crust over the surface of the mouth. Prior to the appearance of blisters, the area of the lips will be itchy, burning, or tingling. Cold sores commonly develop on the lips and/or around the mouth. Cold sores recur, and when they recur, the spot is always the same.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact and sharing of personal items such as towels, lip balms, and utensils. The virus stays in the body for the rest of a person’s life and stays inactive. However, triggering factors such as sunlight, hormonal changes, stress, and a suppressed immune system can reactivate the virus, thus, letting the cold sores recur.
How are cold sores treated?
Cold sores can go away on their own within two to four weeks, without any kind of treatment. However, there are ways that can help improve the symptoms and lessen the duration of the cold sores. Antiviral medications in cream or tablet form are usually prescribed to speed up the healing process of cold sores. There are also antiviral creams that can be bought over-the-counter. Natural remedies can also be done for the treatment of cold sores.
To prevent cold sores, wash your hands regularly. Do not touch your cold sores unless you’re applying an antiviral cream. Do not kiss newborn babies or do not have close contact with people who are immunocompromised. Do not share your personal items, and use a sunblock when going out. More importantly, know what triggers your outbreaks so you can effectively avoid it.
Canker sores appear as small, oval-shaped, gray or white area that is surrounded by a red halo. Canker sores are about 2 to 4 mm in size and are not contagious. They are commonly seen inside the mouth, particularly the cheeks, inner lips, and tongue.
The exact cause of canker sores is not known. However, their development is associated with food allergies such as wheat and gluten sensitivity, nutrition deficiency, hormonal changes, stress, acidic foods, and sodium lauryl sulfate commonly found in household products.
How are canker sores treated?
The key to a successful canker sore treatment is to know what causes it. In most cases, canker sores also go away on their own within two weeks.
However, to speed up the healing process, rinsing your mouth with saturated salts such as dead sea salt and the Himalayan salt are helpful. The salt stimulates the closure of the sores. It also increases blood flow to the site of injury. Salt water also reduces inflammation, thus, speeds up wound healing. Rinsing with salt water can cause a little burning at first, but expect a great result afterwards. Ibuprofen or other painkillers may be used to decrease pain.
To prevent canker sores, switch to a sodium lauryl sulfate-free toothpaste, take oral probiotics, and check your nutrition status.