Cold Sore / Orolabial HSV1 – Care Plan

By Annie Sarid, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
September 24, 2021

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are blisters on the lips or inner cheeks that are caused by a virus. Most commonly, they are caused by HSV-1, but they can sometimes be caused by HSV-2. 

Cold sores are contagious and can be transmitted from person to person through kissing or sharing liquids. 

Signs and symptoms include: 

Painful blister-like lesions on the lip(s) or inner surface of the cheek(s).

While there is no cure, treatment of outbreaks can be managed as follows…

  • Some antiviral medications can help decrease the duration of symptoms  
  • There are some topical medications such as lidocaine that can help improve pain 

Next steps…

  • Use all medications as prescribed
  • Avoid exchanging saliva with other people until your lesions have crusted over 

See a doctor in person if…

  • This is your first suspected episode of cold sores
  • You have lesions in places other than your lips or mouth
  • You have a fever
  • You have chills

Check in with K if…

  • You’re not feeling better within 3-4 days. If that happens, come back so we can  re-evaluate your treatment plan.

Prevention tips…

  • Try to avoid:  
    • Stress as much as possible
    • Weather extremes, if possible
    • Sun exposure 
  • Some people who have frequent outbreaks may be candidates for chronic suppressive therapy (medication taken every day to prevent outbreak). You can talk to your primary care doctor about whether this might be right for you. 

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Annie Sarid, MD

Annie Sarid is the Urgent Care Medical Lead at K Health. Dr. Sarid is a board-certified emergency medicine physician with over 10 years of experience in the emergency room. She received her undergraduate education at Cornell University and went on to receive her medical degree from Sackler School of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University. Dr. Sarid then returned to her Brooklyn roots to complete her residency at Maimonides Medical Center.