Cold sores (also called fever blisters or oral herpes) start as small blisters that form around the lips and mouth. They sometimes appear on the chin, cheeks, and nose, too. After a few days, the blisters usually begin to ooze, then form a crust and heal completely in one to two weeks.
Despite their name, cold sores actually have nothing to do with colds. In children, cold sores are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Genital herpes is usually caused by a different strain, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), although both virus strains can cause sores in any part of the body.
Most people are first exposed to HSV between ages 1 and 5 years of age, and more than half of people in the United States are infected with it by the time they become adults. Beyond the uncomfortable sores that the virus can cause, HSV is usually harmless.
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