Everything about herpes simplex – symptoms, cause and treatment

Munherpes is very common and is due to a virus that causes mouth ulcers and blisters on and around the lips. To reduce the risk of infection, the mouth wound should be treated as soon as possible.

A total of 9 percent (1 million) of the population is affected by three or more mouth ulcers per year. The bladder heals within a week, but the virus remains in the body and can blossom again for example stress, infectious diseases, sunbathing and menstruation.

Cause of oral herpes

The virus infection is due to an infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV). If you have received the virus, it will remain in your body for the rest of your life.

Symptoms may vary, not everyone gets a cold sore even though they carry the virus.

Munherpes and genital herpes

Munherpes is caused by a common virus called herpes simplex. The virus is available in two types, of which type 1 causes blisters around the mouth but also herpes in the genital area. Most adults in Sweden (80–90 per cent) are already infected with type 1. Approximately 30 per cent of these suffer from outbreaks in the form of cold sores, the others carry the virus latently, that is, the virus is at rest until an outbreak occurs. Type 2 mainly causes herpes in the genital area. Through oral love, mouth ulcers can be transmitted to the genital area and cause genital herpes.

You can also get genital herpes at the mouth, although it is unusual.

Mouth herpes need not cause mouth ulcers

Munherpes, or mouth ulcers that we often say in everyday life, are highly contagious and infect mainly through direct contact, usually kissing. You can also transmit infection if you use the same cutlery and the same lipstick. The virus is mainly in the fluid from the wound, therefore the risk of having or giving any oral herpes is greatest when a person has a cold sore with blisters. The mouth wound is contagious until it is completely dry without cracks.

But a herpes infection does not have to cause mouth ulcers and therefore many do not know that they are the carriers of the herpes virus. As long as you don’t get cold sores, the herpes virus is nothing you notice. You can also have cold sores without having to rely on herpes.

The incubation period, the time from the time of infection to the first symptoms, is a few days up to three weeks. There is no cure for oral herpes but viral drugs can attenuate the symptoms.

Symptoms of oral herpes

The most common symptoms of oral herpes are mouth ulcers with fluid-filled blisters that pain, usually appearing on or next to the lips. The trouble begins as tingling and itching, then blisters occur. The blisters break and form wounds which then dry and become wound crusts. These wound crusts roll off after a while.

The first time an infection occurs, some people may have severe symptoms in which the entire general condition is affected. One can get sore throats, fever and swollen lymph nodes on the neck. After the first infection, the virus remains in the body and can bloom again in connection with cold, stress, strong sun or other type of exertion.

Treatment of oral herpes

Once infected with oral herpes, the virus remains in the body for the rest of life. There is no treatment to remove the virus, but the cold sores heal from themselves.

Important when you have oral herpes is to keep the wounds clean and dry. Wash your hands thoroughly if you touch the mouth wound as the virus is highly contagious. An antiviral cream can be used as a treatment against the mouth wound, which inhibits the virus’s ability to proliferate and shortens the healing process. There are several non-prescription options at the pharmacies. Note that only antiviral drugs have this effect, cold sores without these antivirals (so-called herbal products) do not have this effect. Treatment with antiviral drugs should be applied as early as the first signs of cold sores. Note that hand hygiene is important even when applying antiviral creams.

The latest treatment that has come is a combination drug (Zoviduo) which has both antiviral properties but also hydrocortisone which suppresses inflammation. These properties give a more powerful effect by both fighting viruses and inhibiting inflammation.

For those who have severe symptoms and problems with recurring outbreaks, there are prescription drugs in the form of tablets. They relieve the symptoms and prevent the spread. As with prescription-free products, treatment should start early to provide the best effect.

You should seek care if…

  • The ulcer does not heal within two weeks
  • The trouble is difficult
  • You are pregnant and getting herpes for the first time

Avoid kissing if you have cold sores

Sad but true, you should avoid kissing (even kissing and oral love) in conjunction with cold sores as the infection can easily be passed on. Also be careful with things that touch your mouth such as cutlery, lipsticks, mugs, glasses and cups and keep them separate from others as best you can during the time you have cold sores. Also remember that the stage of redness, swelling and bumps/blisters is contagious.

You should also not scratch or take holes on the blisters, as it slows down the healing process and can cause the infection to spread to other parts of the body. If you have been peeing on your mouth, wash your hands carefully afterwards.

However, two people who already have oral herpes can kiss each other without having to worry about giving oral herpes to the other.

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