According to Mayo Clinic, cold sores are small blisters that develop on the lips, nose and cheeks. If more than one cold sore is present, the sores may merge with one another and erupt, causing ulcerations that leak fluid and form crusts. Certain individuals may also carry the cold sore virus and never experience physical symptoms. Additional symptoms can include fever, headache and a tingling sensation prior to outbreaks.
WebMD notes that cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once an individual is infected with the virus, it remains in the body and can cause cold sore outbreaks at any time. Outbreaks are often triggered by stress, illness, hormonal fluctuations and sun exposure. Individuals with compromised immune systems tend to be at a higher risk for serious outbreaks that can last for extended lengths of time.
CVS Pharmacy explains that cold sore outbreaks typically resolve on their own within seven to 20 days. Oral antiviral medications may also be prescribed to individuals to minimize the severity of outbreaks. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help to treat pain. Topical antibiotic and antiviral creams can also help to treat symptoms. Cold sore medications and topical treatments do not eradicate the herpes simplex virus from the body.