Fever blisters and canker sores are two of the most common oral disorders, causing discomfort and inconvenience to millions of American. Fever blisters as well as canker sores cause small sores in or around the mouth, and are the two that are most often confused with each other. Unlike fever blisters, canker sores occur only inside the mouth, on the tongue and inside on the linings of the cheeks or gums. Fever blisters, also known as cold sores, are typically the cause of sores that occur outside the mouth, on the lips, cheeks, chin and nostrils. When fever blisters do occur inside the mouth, they will most oftentimes be found on the gums or roof of the mouth. Fever blisters that occur inside the mouth are found to be smaller than canker sores. Fever blisters begin as a blister and will most times heal much quicker than canker sores.
Fever blisters and canker sores have plagued society for thousands of years. In fact, history has noted that due to an epidemic of fever blisters, Tiberius Claudius Nero, Emperor of ancient Rome from 14 – 37 A.D. banned kissing in public ceremonies! Today scientists around the globe actively seek ways to control and ultimately cure pesky fever blisters.
The highly contagious virus, herpes Simplex, is the cause of fever blisters. There are two types of herpes simplex causing fever blisters. Herpes type 1 generally causes fever blisters. Type 2 is the leading cause of genital herpes. Both types of herpes can infect the oral tissues, more than 95 percent of all recurrent fever blister outbreaks are however, caused by the type 1 herpes simplex virus. Unlike fever blisters, canker sores are not a result of a viral infection and the cause is still unknown.
Fever blisters are highly contagious and are most often contracted as children. Children have a weaker immune system therefore leaving them open to contract fever blisters more easily.
Fever blisters are frequently spread by kissing. Children often become infected by contact with parents, siblings or other close relatives who have a history of recurring fever blisters.
A child can spread fever blisters by rubbing the lesion, then touching other children. According to The Federal Citizen Information Center, approximately 10 percent of incidences of fever blisters in adults are the result of oral-genital sex with a person who has an active genital herpes type 2 infection. However, these fever blister infections (herpes) usually do not result in frequently recurring bouts with fever blisters.
The majority of people infected with fever blisters become infected before the age of 10. Fever blisters are known to invade the moist membrane cells of the lip and throat. Initially, fever blisters may not cause any symptoms. Approximately 15 percent of those that become infected with fever blisters will develop fluid-filled blisters inside or outside the mouth 3 – 5 days after they have become infected. Fever blisters may be accompanied by fever, swollen neck glands and general body aches. The fever blisters tend to merge and then collapse. A yellowish scab like crust will form over the sores and will typically heal within 2 weeks. In rare cases scarring may occur.
The recurring symptoms of fever blisters are usually less severe than those experienced during an initial infection. Recurrences appear less frequent the longer the person has been infected with fever blisters. The most common symptoms of recurring fever blisters are itching, tingling and burning in the lip up to three days prior to the fever blister becoming visible.
One of the most common causes of recurring fever blisters is sunlight exposure. The good news is that findings have confirmed that a simple application of sunscreen can prevent sun-induced fever blisters from recurring. The recommendation is to apply sunscreen before going outside and reapplying frequently throughout the day while in direct sunlight. Some medical professionals have found by adding treatment to your daily diet, recurring fever blister outbreaks can be reduced.
It is important to see your health care provider if you experience lesions or sores in or around your mouth area. Since fever blisters are contagious, it is important to know the difference between fever blisters and canker sores. Don’t assume what you are experiencing is just a canker sore or just a fever blister. It could mean the difference between transmitting a virus or not.