What are Cold Sores and Symptoms?

Cold sores and canker sores are two different oral conditions that can cause pain and discomfort in your mouth. While both of them may appear similar, they have different causes and require different treatments. In this blog post, we will explore such differences and will provide how to manage these oral conditions.

Difference Between Canker and Cold Sores:

Despite their name, cold sores are not caused by common colds. Cold sores, known as fever blisters are contagious and are seen around lips but can also appear on the nose, chin, and around the eyes(in rare instances). Cold sores can be triggered by stress, illness, and exposure to sunlight. Although, they are mostly caused by the herpes simplex virus; once you contract the virus, it remains in a dormant condition inside your body for life. Hence these sores may occur periodically whenever your immunity will be low.
On the other hand, canker sores also known as aphthous ulcers are small, and painful that develop deep inside the mouth, tongue, lips, cheek, and throat. However, these are not contagious and usually heal within a week or two. The sores can be aggravated by various factors including stress, injury to the mouth, or certain foods like acidic or spicy foods.
cold scaled

Treatments for Canker or Cold Sores:

The management of both conditions is different. If you have canker sores, you can manage the pain and discomfort by avoiding acidic and spicy foods. You can manage the pain by taking over-the-counter pain relievers or by rinsing your mouth with salt water.
For cold sores, caused by the herpes virus, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications. This will speed up your healing and will prevent the spread of the virus as well. Avoid touching the sores or ulcers and wash your hands frequently. You can also apply topical creams or ointments to alleviate the pain and itching. For example, zinc oxide ointment can be used after crusts have formed.
70% rubbing alcohol can be applied topically when sores appear first. It can dry up those HSV incrustations and help in faster healing.

Laser treatment for canker sore:

If you are experiencing recurrent canker sores, your doctor may recommend getting soft tissue laser therapy. This provides quick, effective, and long-term relief from the recurrent pain.
Due to laser therapy, viral load will be reduced. Moreover, you will get immediate pain relief as the affected nerve endings will be sealed. This ensures stopping the progression of lesions after laser therapy. Laser therapy for canker sores is a well-recognized and highly effective treatment option. Don’t allow yourself to suffer from recurrent sores that are taking weeks to heal, just to reoccur again.
Below are some medications that can help you to relieve symptoms and soften HSV(herpes simplex virus) crusts or blisters.
  • Denavir: FDA-approved antiviral cream that accelerates the healing of cold sores.
  • Acyclovir: This can be taken orally and can reduce the symptoms effectively if taken within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Although both of them may look similar, the conditions are different with different courses of treatment. If you experience symptoms similar to these conditions and are unsure about the condition you have, seek medical advice right away. With proper care and management, you can reduce the pain, itching, and discomfort.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What heals a cold sore the fastest?

Cold sores usually disappear on their own in 10-15 days. However, to fasten the healing process, your doctor may keep you on antiviral medication. It is advisable to administer the first dose within 24 hours of the first symptom i.e. tingling or burning sensation.

Are cankers and cold sores related?

Canker sores and cold sores may appear to feel similar, but the cause may be different.

Canker sores are painful yellowish-white sores that generally form inside the mouth like on your gums, cheeks, lips, or on your gums.

When should you worry about canker sore?

Canker sores are small painful aphthous ulcers that may get clear up on their own within a week or so. However, in some cases, you should be concerned ad seek medical attention right away.

If your sores are large and persistent and last longer than two weeks, do not ignore them. Apart from this, if you develop a high fever, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or you are facing difficulty in breathing or swallowing, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Is it okay to put salt on a canker sore?

Putting salt directly on your sore might not be a comfortable experience as it can cause temporary pain or a burning sensation. Although, some people find that applying salt to a canker sore can help to reduce pain and speed up the healing process.

You can mix the salt with a small amount of water to form a paste-like consistency. Then apply the paste directly on a canker sore with a cotton swab.

However, it is important to understand while salt can provide relief to some patients, it may not be effective for everyone. If the pain persists and the sore doesn’t heal after a few days, it's best to talk to your doctor for further evaluation.

How can I get rid of a canker sore overnight?

While it is not possible to get rid of the sores overnight, here are some things that you can do to reduce your pain and speed up the healing process.
  • Apply topical ointment like milk of magnesia to the sore to help to soothe it.
  • Mix hydrogen peroxide with water in a 1:1 ratio and apply it to the sore by using a cotton swab.
  • Rinsing your mouth with salt water can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Also, getting plenty of rest can help to boost your immune system; hence promoting healing.