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Beginning Signs of a Cold Sore

author image Brenda Barron
Brenda Barron is a writer, editor and researcher based in Southern California. She has worked as a writer since 2004, with work appearing in online and print publications such as BabyZone, "Cat Fancy" and "ePregnancy." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from California State University, Long Beach.
Beginning Signs of a Cold Sore
A young woman puts her finger to her lip as she is feeling a cold sore coming. Photo Credit: BirgitKorber/iStock/Getty Images

Cold sores are common and often appear on the lips. A version of herpes simplex type 1, these sores look like small little blisters that crack and split or even bleed. The virus stays dormant in your body until you get ill, undergo stress or experience hormonal changes. To treat a cold sore, use over-the-counter creams or prescription medications if severe. Before you start dabbing creams on blemishes around your mouth, however, learn the beginning warning signs of cold sores.

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The skin may itch where a cold sore is developing. You won't necessarily see anything different on your skin at this time, but the area, most likely next to your lip, will itch and sting. If you suspect the itching around your mouth is a cold sore, use antiviral creams to slow its progress or to prevent it from breaking through the skin. Place an ice cube on the area to ease itching and discomfort.

Redness and Irritation

The skin will look red and dry where a cold sore is starting to appear. The skin may even be irritated or cracked if the itching has caused you to scratch at it. Left untreated, it will soon form a blister. You can implement treatment now to prevent the sore from worsening.


Once the cold sore has set in, a blister will form. These blisters may be mild and relatively small or large and irritated, depending on the severity of the outbreak. Cold sore blisters can pop, causing pus to ooze out. These blisters tend to scab over before healing, which can be even more unsightly. Apply a pain-relieving cream at this point.

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