Lip Herpes: What It Is and What It’s Not

The causes to lip herpes may be many. It could be an innocent sharing of towels after gym, kissing an infected person during his/her viral shedding phase, or even being in the general direction of an infected person’s sneeze.

Really, the list is endless.

But while there is a certain stigma attached to having herpes on the lips, there is absolutely no reason for you to be wary and not live your life to the fullest.

After all, although this infection is highly transmissible, it is only transient, and with a little management, you can be able to minimize the number of outbreaks that you have.

Lip Herpes: What is it?

Lip herpes is a form of oral or mouth herpes that manifests around the lip area. Like most herpes infections found in the oral cavity, Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) rather than Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) causes it, although in some instances, the latter can also cause lip herpes.

Are the herpes sores only located on the lips?

Although the lips is one of the most common sites of herpes infection, herpes sores can occur in visually any part of the body including the gums, inside the cheeks, on the sides of your nose, the face, and even the genitalia. However, sores on the genitalia are caused more by HSV-2.

Lip Herpes

(Herpes around the lips caused by HSV-1)

HSV-1, what?

HSV-1 or Herpes Simplex Virus 1, is one-half of the 2 members of the Herpesviridae virus family, and are known to infect only humans; hence it is also called as the Human Herpes Virus 1 (HHV-1). HSV-1 is almost always associated to cold sores (not to be confused with canker sores), while the other (HSV-2) is associated with genital sores.

How on earth did I lip herpes?

HSV-1 is a fairly common virus, and the majority of adults nowadays have the virus. In the US, the virus has already infected most people before they reach 20. They may have gotten it during preschool or by coming in close contact with an adult who have the infection.

Will lip herpes ever go away? 

The lesions around your lips will go away after a week or so, however, this doesn't mean that the virus has already left your body. In fact, the virus will be in its latent form for a while after an outbreak, and will reside in your facial nerves where it will stay dormant until triggered by things like extreme environments and stress to reactivate and cause another outbreak.

Don’t I get warning signals before an outbreak?

Unfortunately, the warning signals before an outbreak come a bit late, and is only able to manifest a good 2-3 weeks after you come in contact with the virus, after which the virus may already have replicated inside your body.  Warning signals prior to an outbreak includes: itching, burning, and tingling of the lips and the mouth area.

herpes blister on the lips

That’s it? I don’t get any more warnings after that?

After the itching, burning, or tingling that you’re going to experience prior to the outbreak, you’re going to experience any one of the following before the blisters appear on your lip or mouth area:

  1. Sore throat. A horrible sore throat often appears as a sign of herpes infection and these occasionally ulcerates. It is exceedingly uncomfortable and may some times cause complications, so it is good to seek professional medical help if you think that it is getting worse.
  2. Fever. Fever is no longer used as a tell tale sign of disease. It is an attempt of the body to maintain normal body functions amidst an ongoing infection.
  3. Swollen glands. Swollen glands are usually indicative of infections because at this time, your body tries to eliminate the infection by over secreting saliva as an attempt to eradicate the virus through excessive body fluids.
  4. Painful swallowing. Painful swallowing is usually true especially if the blister appears inside the mouth area. If the blister appears near the margins of your lip however, you’re only going to experience discomfort while eating, as well as some bleeding whenever you open your lips to bite, especially if the blister is located on the border of the upper and lower lips.

I’ve just had an outbreak of lip herpes, am I still contagious? 

Lip herpes is highly infectious, and you can infect another person even if you are not currently on your outbreak because, as already mentioned, it stays dormant in your facial nerves and can undergo a phase of viral shedding even after the blisters in your lip or mouth area have already disappeared.

Although the likelihood of spreading the virus increases at least tenfold when you have active sores, you can still spread the virus even without signs and symptoms. This is because of the phenomena called "viral shedding" in which the herpes virus travels to the skin surface a few times a year without causing visible outbreaks.

While it is true that the virus is easily transmissible, a lot of people nowadays have antibodies against the virus as produced when they were first infected by HSV1 as a child. The best way to avoid unwittingly passing on the virus to another is listen to your body when signs and symptoms of herpes start, and to take antiviral suppressive medication especially when sexually active with a partner.

What medicines can I take if I have an outbreak?

Proven effective antiviral medications against herpes outbreaks are acyclovir, penciclovir, valaciclovir, or famciclovir. If you are a bit doubtful of whether you want to take an oral drug without prescription, an effective topical cream can also be used as long as the lesions or blisters are not within your oral cavity. 

Is there anything I can do to prevent an outbreak from happening?

There is really no foolproof way of actually stopping a lip herpes outbreak from happening, but you can try any of these things to lessen the chances of having an outbreak and shortening the duration of the outbreak.

  1. Wash your hands regularly. This cannot be reiterated enough, but your hands are the extensions of your body, and is one of the most used body parts you have, which in turn causes it to be a front liner in infections. Washing your hands regularly will prevent any opportunistic pathogens from occurring because you rid yourself of them before they even have the chance of causing an infection.
  2. Don’t share personal items with anyone. Again, this is one of the foremost steps you can do in preventing an outbreak or becoming infected. Make sure that your personal items are just that: for your own personal use. Yes, sometimes, we forget buying some stuff we need, but it is imperative that you do not share personal items especially if you are not aware of the health status of the person.
  3. Avoid triggers. Some people are more prone to cold sores than others and the littlest trigger, even sun exposure, is enough to cause an outbreak. For those who are prone to cold sores, try to avoid spending too much time under the sun, or go and bring an umbrella if you must spend a while under the sun. Stress, is also a form of trigger and it is helpful if you can avoid stressful situations to prevent outbreaks.

Final Advice On Lip Herpes

These are only a few of the ways you can do to prevent lip herpes outbreaks from happening, and you will find that it is fairly easy to manage after all.

If you're experiencing an outbreak right now and have an important meeting, interview, or date coming up, I recommend getting Dynamiclear Advantage for fast relief.

This topical medication has been proven to relieve itchiness and pain associated with herpes sores in just a few days!

The appearance of sores can be embarrassing, but with the right outlook and a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle, you can definitely overcome this infection.

Just remember to stay positive about lip herpes. Don't stress about it too much.

You deserve to enjoy your life. Don't let lip herpes take that right away from you.

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