Activate ReciteMe accessibility assistance Download this page Print this page

Cold Sores

Cold Sores are a blister that appears on the face – usually around the mouth. They are caused by a virus called herpes simplex.

You may never know that you carry the virus in your skin. You will not know you have the virus unless a first cold sore blister appears. It is not infectious unless you get a blister. It is only passed from one person to another when a blister is getting ready to, or has, appeared. It stays infectious until the skin has completely healed – around two weeks.

The blisters are sore. Some people say that they get them when they are over tired or ‘run down’. People tend to get a cold sore 2 to 6 times a year after their first sore. For most people the virus is not serious.


  • After you have had a cold sore a couple of times you might notice the signs another one is coming. It is often described as a ‘tingling’ itching or burning feeling. You can start treating it straight away. It is infectious from this point.

    There are creams to treat your cold sore – talk to your Pharmacist ( Find a local pharmacy *here*) Using the treatment before the cold sore ‘breaks through’ might help it clear more quickly.

    You might find cold sores are triggered by sunlight – if so use sunblock when out and about.

    People who are more at risk from illnesses like those with low immune systems can become very poorly.
    We know that small babies are particularly at risk from this virus. It can cause ‘neonatal herpes’ which is extremely dangerous if not treated very quickly. You may have seen on social media cases where babies have died. Babies are most at risk in the first 4 weeks of life.

  • How to Stop Cold Sores Spreading

    The best way to stop spread is good hand washing. Especially after touching the area or applying cream.

    • The person with the sore should not kiss anyone until it is completely healed - especially babies.
    • Keep separate towels and face cloths.
    • Do not share cups or cutlery, lipsticks or lip salves.

    Ask for advice from your GP or 111 if your new born comes into contact with the cold sore virus, as well as if you are pregnant.

    If the sore is still there after 10 days and / or the sore area is getting bigger contact your GP surgery.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 


Need More Information?

Close the mobile menu