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Cold sores are caused by a  Herpes Simples Virus infection. There are two types of Herpes Virus which cause cold sores, type 1 and type 2. 

The type 1 HSV virus is the one that is associated with cold sores seen in the top half of the body, while HSV 2 is responsible for cold sores seen in the bottom half of the body. Infection with this virus is extremely common, in fact by some estimates close to 98 percent of the entire population has been exposed to the virus at some point or the other.

Not all develop cold sores however, as the virus requires a weakened or a compromised immune system to be able to produce clinically visible symptoms. 

Also, once you have been infected there is no way to actually get rid of the virus. It stays latent inside the body throughout your life until it finds an opportune moment to strike. 

It has been observed that some people are more likely to get cold sores than others, and there may not always be clear reasons as to why that is. Nor can it always be predicted when a person will develop cold sores.

There are a few things that can be done to help minimize their occurrence and treat the cold sores as and when they appear. 

These include:

  1. Avoid direct contact and sharing of towels, handkerchiefs, silverware, tooth brushes or other such things with people who are infected. The virus is present in the saliva and on the active lesions. Even shaking hands with someone who has scratched their affected area can lead to a transfer of the cold sores.
  2. Once the cold sores are present, they should be covered with Vaseline and too much exposure to the sun should be avoided. These areas of the sun are prone to sun damage and become worse on prolonged periods of sun exposure.
  3. Anti-viral medication may be prescribed to you in an effort to prevent the frequent occurrence of cold sores. It should be remembered that you can get an outbreak even if you are on anti viral medication, although it is likely that duration of symptoms will be reduced.
  4. Ointments that help reduce the itching and the pain are most often prescribed to help make the ordeal more bearable. They do nothing to actually treat the cold sores, however.
  5. Nutritional supplements like vitamin C have shown limited success in trials and can be tried to see if they offer any benefit.
  6. A herpes infection is often accompanied with fever and so medication should be prescribed by your doctor to help bring the fever down. Children are prone to dehydration since they have pain on eating and drinking and so care should be taken that they are getting adequate fluids.
  7. In rare cases, there may be a super-imposed infection that would also need to be treated. There are a number of bacterial and fungal infections that can become opportunistic and strike when they see that the defenses of the body are compromised.  

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