Herpes Simplex Infections (Cold Sores) - Symptoms and Signs

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What are the signs and symptoms of cold sores?

The hallmark symptom of herpes is tingling or a burning sensation before the appearance of the outbreak. The classic sign of herpes is a cluster of blisters on a base of red skin. The blisters look like a drop of water filled with clear liquid. These blisters dry up rapidly and leave a crust or scab that lasts 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 you are healthy and the rash lasts for weeks, it is unlikely to be herpes.

Herpes infections feel dry and crusty, and they may cause pain or itch. Some patients have a "prodrome," which is the occurrence of certain symptoms before the actual sores become 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)

See what others are saying

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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