Herpes labialis infections

Herpes labialis (cold sore) is an infection that appears on your lips, caused by a virus called type 1 herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), which is responsible for those painful sores on your lips. The herpes virus is hidden in a dormant state inside a living host cell: once outside its ‘habitat’ and without the asisstance of the living cell, it does not survive.

Who is affected

• The majority of population in the Western world produces antibodies against type 1 herpes simplex virus (HSV-1); therefore, approximately all individuals have come into contact with the virus at least once: contagion occurs frequently in young adults and is often asymptomatic.
• The latent virus remains dormant in the nerve ganglia; however, under certain circumstances such as emotional or physical stress, bacterial infections, sunlight, eating disorders, menstruation, pregnancy, pharmacological treatments that may weaken the immune system, and traumas, the latent virus can reactivate.
• Reactivation occurs in those people who have already had a first episode. These subjects may report frequent relapses.

What are the symptoms

• The prodromal symptoms usually appear 6-12 hours before the onset of erythema, i.e., redness of skin around the affected area, followed by blister formation which causes the lesions on the lip.
• With HSV-1, it generally takes 36-72 hours for the symptoms to peak, with local inflammation of the skin and sores on the lips that disappear only after 12-15 days.

How to fight the virus

• You need to know as much as you can about your enemy.
• The best defense is being prepared and act at the first symptoms. If you have experienced recurrent cold sores, you know your triggers and what to expect: a sense of tingling, itching, soreness, etc.
• The next time you feel a tingle coming, having a topical antiviral handy, that specifically targets the cells that have been invaded by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), is one way to be prepared.