Herpes simplex is the name of a virus. It exists in two strains. Herpes simplex 1, which about 80% of the population has, is the usual cause of cold sores in your mouth. Herpes simplex 2, which about 16% of the world has, is more associated with genital sores. Either strain can cause sores in either place, however. Both are contagious, through contact, especially when the sores are present. The sores come and go because viral infections are like that. You get your first infection after viral genetic material works its way into your own genome. Ever after, when your immune system runs down, through fatigue or stress or some other infection, the virus is free to express again, replicating itself right from your cells. Cold sores, like runny noses, happen a lot in children because their immune systems are only beginning to adjust to the world’s viral load. It happens less in later life because their immune systems are gradually better equipped to suppress infections.
Treatment of oral simplex 1 sores
Paracetamol or ibuprofen reduce the discomfort. Topical anti-virals like aciclovir also help speed the sores away. There is anti-viral medication in tablet form, but doctors like to avoid it if they can. To prevent more outbreaks, antiseptic ointment and potassium permanganate washes can help. They don’t kill the viruses, but they control secondary factors that make viral outbreaks more likely.
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