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A cold sore is an infection of the lip by the herpes simplex virus. The visible sore usually only lasts from 2-3 weeks. Once contracting the virus it stays in your body forever. The virus will spend most of its time dormant with a few outbreaks every year. Factors that can help induce outbreaks are stress, menstruation, sunburn, sunlight. One way to treat outbreaks is a cream that is applied diligently to the sore. In order to prevent getting a cold sore do not touch an active breakout site. This includes not making contact with items shared by mouth, such as drinking after someone, or kissing someone while there is an outbreak present.
Q1: How are cold sores different from canker sores (the ones inside your mouth)?
(R. Hackle)
A1: The main difference between cold sores and canker sores are that cold sores are a type of herpes. Cold sores are contagious when you have an outbreak while canker sores are not. It is very difficult to tell the difference between the two by just looking at them. They both last about 2 weeks and look similar, however it is not known what causes canker sores.

Q2: Once you get a cold sore, and it goes away, will it be gone forever? or is it possible for it to come back periodically? (M. Fujimoto)
A2: The actual blister will go away but the virus that causes that will be there forever. It will not always be visable but it is possible for the blister to come back periodically, usually a few times a year.

Q3: Is there any relation between the herpes simplex virus and the STD herpes since they both seem to result in sores around the body? (D.Kong)
A3: Yes, cold sores are part of the HSV-1 virus and genitile herpes are part of the HSV-2 virus. They are basically the same except the cold sore virus resides in the ears so infection is often shown on the mouth. Genitile herpes however is usually stored in the spine resulting in sores in the groin region. However it is possible to get both of the viruses in both places.

Q4: Are their different levels of severity regarding cold sores, or are they generally the same in everyone? (K.SANDER)
A4: Although the most common cold sores are just small blisters around the lips and mouth they can become more sever. It is possible to get an infection in the eye and that can be pretty nasty. It is also possilble for the blisters to become infected which could also complicate things more than just a basic blister.

Q5: Why are cold sores called cold sores.... Does getting a cold have anything to do with an outbreak of the sore? (CBACON)
A5: Getting cold sores are not directly related to getting colds. The virus is not the same as the virus that give you colds. However, in young children colds can sometimes trigger cold sores, but the virus is still different. Cold sores come from the herpes simplex virus while colds do not.