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Cold Sore 
diagnosis, treatment and medications

Connect with an Online Dermatologist today! Medications delivered to your preferred pharmacy 

Cold Sore Treatment FAQ

Can a Dermatologist treat cold sores at DermCafé?

Yes! Cold sores are very common, easily identifiable on photograph, and there are effective medications to prevent them

What are the symptoms?

If you get cold sores, you’ll usually have the following signs and symptoms: 

Warnings symptoms begin. 

A day or two before you get a cold sore, you may feel one or more of the following on your skin where a cold sore will appear. 

  • Burning 

  • Itching 

  • Stinging 

  • Tingling and the skin feels a little numb 

  • Throbbing 

Some people who have these warning symptoms never get cold sores.

What causes cold sores?

A virus causes cold sores. Most cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). More than half of Americans ages 14 to 49 carry this virus. 

Once you get the virus that causes cold sores, you have it for life. After the sores clear, the virus travels to your nerves, where it stays unless it reawakens. 

After getting infected, some people never get a cold sore. Others see some cold sores, but then develop antibodies to the virus and never get another cold sore. It’s also possible to get cold sores throughout your life. 

Outbreaks tend to occur less often after 35 years of age. 

If you get cold sores, it’s likely that something triggers the virus to wake up. The following can be a trigger: 

  • Stress 

  • Fatigue 

  • Illness, such as a cold, fever, or flu Injury, such as a cut, to the area where you have had cold sores 

  • Dental work 

  • Cosmetic surgery or laser treatment 

  • Strong sunlight 

  • Certain foods 

  • Hormonal changes, such as getting your period 

What triggers cold sores in one person may not trigger them in another person.

Who gets cold sores?

The virus that causes cold sores is very contagious, so many people get cold sores. 

In Canada, people usually get this virus when they are a child. Getting kissed by someone who has a cold sore is often how a child catches the virus. 

A child can also get the virus by eating from the same fork or spoon as someone who has a cold sore or sharing a towel with a person who has a cold sore. 

Adults also catch the virus. That’s why it’s so important for everyone who has a cold sore not to kiss people or have intimate contact until the cold sore forms a scab. To prevent infecting others, it’s also important to stop sharing personal items like towels and razors until the cold sores form scabs.

How is it treated?

One of the main treatments is antiviral medication. Cold sores are caused by a virus, so antiviral medications are used to treat them. Your dermatologist may recommend medication that you: 

  • Apply directly to the sores, such as docosanol cream or acyclovir cream 

  • Take by mouth, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir

What is DermCafé?

Connect with a DermCafé Dermatologist today! 

We’re a Digital Dermatology Centre that aims to provide all Canadians with equitable, accessible, convenient and modern dermatology care.

Simply submit your symptom info and skin photos online and connect with an online dermatologist at your convenience.

Visit our How This Work page to learn more. 

Step 1

Submit your Symptom Info and Photos online

Step 2

Book your Online Appointment

Step 4

Access Your Online Results Anytime

Choose your preferred Pharmacy for medication delivery

Download DermCafé Info Sheets, bloodwork forms and Sick Notes, and book follow-up appointments when needed

Step 3

Audio/Video Visit with Your Dermatologist

OHIP/MSP-covered visits require a Referral by another Physician. Simply book a Video Visit with our Family Doctor first

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