Are Cold Sores Contagious? How To Keep From Catching or Spreading

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Are cold sores contagious?  Absolutely!  Cold sores and the Herpes simplex (HSV-1) virus that cause them are highly contagious. This is why they are such a frustrating problem for millions of people.  The actual virus is never fully destroyed when treated and remains latent until “awakened” by factors such as stress or sunburn.  Once the virus is reactivated into a full blown cold sore it goes through several stages, each with a different degree of infectiousness.

Many of us have been exposed to cold sores throughout our lives without even knowing it.  The sad fact is that a large number who suffer from cold sores as adults probably were infected as a child from kissing a relative.  The virus is perfectly capable of transmitting itself through saliva even when a lip sore itself is not present. And the cold sore virus is also anaerobic, meaning it does not require oxygen to survive.

Are cold sores contagious right from the first signs?

The contagious period for the cold sore cycle begins when the very first symptoms appear. There is a burning or tingling sensation and a redness around the lips.  Even at this early stage it can be spread-usually through kissing.  However, the HSV-1 virus is most likely to spread when visible fluid is seeping out of the sore. This is when they are at the most communicable stage.  A cold sore can take well over a week to disappear and can be contagious the whole duration.

Are cold sores contagious when scabbed?

Unfortunately, yes.  This is often the most painful period of the cold sore cycle.  The scab itself is not made from the active virus but rather proteins in the blood.  As the virus reproduces itself it damages the skin around your lips and nose forming the familiar sore.  The body responds by attempting to blister and scab.  During eating, talking or smiling the scabs can crack and break and viral fluid will leak out.  Even after the scab appears to be well-healed and only a reddish area remains the virus is still alive and can spread through contact.


If someone you know has a cold sore, certainly avoid touching their face or kissing.  The cold sore virus is spread through body fluids and so it is possible to become infected by sharing utensils, straws or drinking glasses.  Do not share toothbrushes and even use caution when touching their hands.

To keep from spreading the virus if you have a cold sore, avoiding touching an active outbreak site.  Make sure to wash your hands frequently the entire time the cold sore is present.  Do not share any items that have come in contact with the mouth.  Do not engage in kissing or oral sex in order to decrease the likelihood of the infection being spread to others.  Remember, are cold sores contagious?  Yes!

If you or someone you know has difficulty getting rid of cold sores then check out this site by researcher Derek Shepton and the methods he has been using to treat cold sores effectively.  We give a full review on the following page.

Check out our latest post: Virulite Cold Sore Light: C’mon, Could this Really Work?


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