Caused by a virus known as the herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1), cold sores are a nuisance that can lead to lingering pain for weeks.
The formation of scabs on cold sores is a critical stage of the healing process, and premature removal can negatively impact the cold sore’s recovery. Since the sores undergo several phases while healing, any disruption to the stages must be avoided.
If your cold sore falls off early, it can lead to an infection and more serious issues that require a doctor’s consultation. Detailed below are all the facts and measures you need to gain the know-how of treating a premature cold sore removal.
How Cold Sores Run Their Course
Cold sores go through five distinct phases that last from 7 to 10 days. Through these stages, the sores will heal themselves naturally, but unfortunately, it’s not difficult to disrupt the healing process.
To be sure which stage your sores are in, you should arm yourself with the knowledge of their signs and behavioral pattern.
1. Stage 1: Early Symptoms
During stage 1, the sores will not be visible, but the victim will feel unusual sensations like tingling, soreness, or itching around the lips. This phase can last up to two days, and you should seek preventive measures at the earliest if you notice these symptoms.
2. Stage 2: Sore Formation
After the first symptoms come the red fluid-filled blisters, signaling that the patient’s body has begun combating the HSV-1 virus. The stage lasts up to two days, leading to the worsening of cold sores and the pain that accompanies them.
3. Stage 3: Weeping Stage
The blisters open and release their fluid in a phase known as the ulcer or weeping stage. This fluid is contagious and can be transmitted to another person if they happen to share personal space with the patient. The sores are at their most painful in the weeping phase.
4. Stage 4: Scab Formation
For three days after the weeping stage, the sores will dry up and eventually develop a yellow crust that falls off. It’s vital to keep the scab intact so as to prevent disrupting the healing.
5. Stage 5: Healing
It’s during this phase that the cold sores will begin healing. The patient will experience the formation of several scabs that fall off over time, lasting up to six weeks after the scab formation stage.
Each scab will be smaller than the one preceding it until they disappear entirely.
What Happens If Cold Sores Fall Off Early
The reason for it to fall off early may not be entirely intentional. If you have cold sores and are in the healing phase, chances are you disrupted the healing accidentally. This can lead to more problems, as the cold sore stages begin anew after being disrupted.
Scabs act as a shield for fresh skin, and forcibly removing them leaves the skin ripe for infection. If they happen to come off early, they will leave behind a new wound that will need treatment from square one. Meaning, it would take another two to three weeks for the sores to heal again, even if an infection doesn’t occur.
If there’s any bleeding, clean the area and attempt to stop it. Consult a physician to mitigate the damage at the earliest, so as to stop any infections.
What To Do If Your Cold Sore Scab Falls Off Early
In case of bleeding, the first measure you should seek is ice to reduce pain and swelling. The sooner you stop the bleeding, the better.
If you were on medication for your sores, chances are your doctor may advise you to continue the treatment as before. This advice comes into play even if you were using over-the-counter measures: keep doing what you were before, and the healing will restart.
You can opt for creams and ointments that heal your exposed skin, protect it from microorganisms and relieve any pain you experience due to the scab removal.
Lastly, try to ensure that your cold sores don’t come in contact with external factors. It’s generally a good idea to avoid consuming acidic foods and beverages, as they may result in increased pain and disruption of the healing process. Self-control is paramount when it comes to cold sores.
Symptoms Of Cold Sore Infections
While common symptoms of cold sores will still be present, you’ll notice a few additional signs if you have an infection. It can range from minor symptoms, such as your sores becoming a different color, to more serious ones, like the appearance of additional blisters.
Here’s what you should watch for in case of a cold sore infection:
- Sores become discolored
- Sores do not progress to the next stage
- Increased blisters
- Unusually high swelling
- Redness around the sores
Seek your physician’s guidance if these symptoms cause you significant discomfort.
The Transmissibility Of Cold Sores
As cold sores are a result of viral infection, they commonly spread through personal contact.
From the moment blisters form, cold sores remain contagious until they are fully healed. Meaning, if you come into contact with another person’s cold sore, you may run the risk of an infection as well. The primary reason for this is the fluid released when a blister ruptures.
Transmission can happen by sharing utensils, toothbrushes, towels, and other personal belongings or through personal contact. It can take up to three weeks for you to show symptoms if you happen to share personal space or belongings with someone having an open blister.
Causes Of Cold Sores
As mentioned earlier, cold sores result from a viral infection, but the virus needs certain conditions before it develops sores on a victim.
Sores can occur due to various factors, ranging from stress, fatigue, solar exposure, hormones, and allergies. They can also be a sign of other underlying diseases, particularly those affecting the immune system.
Symptoms Of Cold Sores
If you have never had a cold sore outbreak before, you must remain vigilant to detect the symptoms early. You will be able to prevent cold sores from appearing altogether if you notice these signs.
1. Tingling Sensation
You may experience a tingling, itching, or burning sensation around your lips. This is usually the first sign of cold sores, and within 24 hours, the sores will begin to appear.
2. Reddened Skin
Around your lips, you may see your skin reddening and swelling, which may be accompanied by pain.
While on its own, a fever isn’t necessarily a sign of sores, but when accompanied by the previous symptoms, it’s more likely to be a telltale sign. Because of this, cold sores are often referred to as ‘fever blisters’.
Cold sores, if detected before blisters appear, can be stopped from occurring. If you notice the symptoms during the first stage, you can opt for prescription medication to limit their growth or eliminate them completely.
Other preventive measures include:
- Avoiding intimate contact
- Not sharing towels, dishes, utensils, or cosmetics
- Regularly washing your hands
- Getting ample rest
Chronic cold sores are a reality and though they can’t be outright cured, people suffering from them can take preventive measures to keep them from appearing. Should you find yourself in such an unfortunate position, here are a few recommendations to limit the pain and discomfort cold sores may cause:
- Eat food containing high amounts of lysine
- Use a lip balm with SPF throughout the year
- Shave with disposable razors
- Reduce stress
- Avoid touching blisters
There are over-the-counter medicines and ointments that you can use to reduce the healing time of your cold sores. If used early on, you’ll be able to prevent them from developing fully.
Your doctor will prescribe you antiviral medication that will aid your body in combating the HSV-1 virus. In rare cases, if the oral medication doesn’t have an effect, your physician may suggest an intravenous medicine instead.
The treatment of cold sores is fairly straightforward, but your doctor will keep a close eye on your healing stages to prevent any undue complications.
A doctor can merely advise a patient on how to approach the treatment of cold sores. It falls upon the patient to protect the scab until it heals, or else the healing will be disrupted, and the sores will begin anew.
The patient isn’t always to blame, however, as involuntary actions or events outside their control can cause the sores to fall off. What they can do, though, is to attempt to minimize any potential damage.
Cold sores can become itchy, and the temptation to get rid of that feeling may grow too strong, but it’s crucial to avoid it. Remaining vigilant is key and resisting the desire is vital for recovery.