Fever blisters, better known as cold sores, are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. These annoying blisters are usually found all around the mouth, on the lips, sometimes even on the nose or chin. Starting off as small red spots that resemble pimples, cold sores are extremely itchy and painful. Soon these spots become filled with fluid. The pus then oozes out, the sores crust over and they finally fade away.
The first thing most people wonder when they see a cold sore on their face is: “How long is this cold sore going to last?” No one can give them a straight answer because it depends upon weather conditions, what triggered the outbreak, and what treatments are being used. Normally it takes a week or two for cold sores to run their course and disappear. Every cold sore goes through five stages; how long each of these stages last will determine how long the actual cold sore will last. These five stages are:
Days 1 to 2: The Early Stage
The first thing you will notice is that there is a tingling sensation on your lip, mouth, or wherever the sore is forming. This sensation may last anywhere from a few hours to a whole day – or more. This tingling feeling may also be accompanied by a burning and itching sensation. The skin around the forming cold sore becomes red and starts to swell because of the infection under the skin.
Days 2 to 4: The Blister Stage
During this stage you will notice that a group of small lumps are forming, and they will continue to multiply. Your body works hard to fight off the cold sore by sending white blood cells to attack the infection. As this is occurring, the cold sore becomes a large fluid filled blister that contains the millions of viruses that caused the infection.
Day 4: The Ulcer Stage
This stage hurts because the blister bursts open, pus runs everywhere, and you are left with an open sore where the blister was. The area around the shallow ulcer will be red, inflamed, and very painful. The good news is that this stage usually lasts no more than a day.
Days 5 to 8: The Scabbing Stage
Your cold sore will begin to dry out and form a golden-brown scab over the open hole. As your body repairs itself, the scab will begin to shrink and pull away from the healthy skin. This may cause painful cracks to form and bleed. There will probably be a lot of burning and itching as the scab does it thing.
Days 8 to 10: The Healing Stage
Day by day you will notice that the scab is getting smaller and smaller. Eventually it will fall off. You might see a bit of dry skin flaking off, and there might be some swelling. The skin around the sore will still look red.
The scab may fall off and another form in its place. This is very normal for this final stage. Depending on your care, it should take about 12 days from the start of the scab formation until it is completely gone. Once the skin has completely healed there will be no more scabs. The skin revealed will be a nice new pink color – healthy again.