Difference Between Cold & Canker Sores And How To Treat Them

Cold sores and canker sores are often mistaken for one another because of their similarities, but they are not the same. You are more likely to get a canker or cold sore during the colder months due to a weakened immune system. There are ways to differentiate between the two and treat the two types of sores, and it is something you may want to because one is a contagious virus, while the other is just a sore.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sore, commonly called fever blisters, are fluid-filled blisters or pimples outside the mouth, nose or anywhere near the mouth. There can be a cluster of them, and once the blister pops and the fluid escapes, a crust develops. Cold sores are triggered by sunlight, harsh wind, hormone changes, stress, and viral infections.

Cold sores are highly contagious, and can be spread by kissing.
Cold sores are highly contagious & are caused by the Herpes simplex virus, and can be spread by kissing.

These sores are highly contagious and can be spread by kissing, drinking from others cups, or eating from other. Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) is the virus associated with cold sores and is contagious even when there are no sores or symptoms. Almost 90% of adults that have been tested were tested positive for this strand of herpes virus. Tingling will usually occur 24-48 hours before a cold sore or cluster appears. They usually heal within 2-4 weeks and are sometimes painful.

Symptoms begin after an illness such as a cold and once the illness is over, it activates the HSV and creates the cold sores. Most of the time, infected people do not get a cold sore because the HSV is never reactivated after the first initial infection.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are sore that takes place inside the mouth. They are shaped like a circle or oval and are yellow or white with a red border. They can appear under your tongue, inside of your cheek or lip, or the gum line. There are minor canker sores, medium sores, and herpetiform canker sores. Herpetiform sores develop in clusters and at times merge together but are often rare compared to the occurrence of minor canker sores.

These sores typically occur when your immune system is down and when you are fatigued. It may also be caused by food allergies, hormonal changes, something sharp like a chip can cut inside your mouth and cause one. Some kinds of toothpastes can acidic foods can also cause a canker sore. If you are deficient in zinc, folate, iron or vitamin B-12, you may experience canker sores. Women are twice as likely to get canker sores.

Canker sores are not contagious and usually vanish within a week or two, but if it does not go away then you should go to a doctor. It can cause pain and discomfort, accompanied by a fever, or eye discomfort.  

Ice can relieve discomfort for both canker sores and cold sores.
Ice can relieve discomfort for both canker sores and cold sores.

How to Treat a Canker Sore

  • Rinse with warm salt water
  • Rinse with baking soda and warm water
  • Ice to relieve discomfort
  • Benozocaine can numb the sore and help with the pain
  • Avoid spicy, acidic, and sharp foods or very hot food until canker sores are gone

How to Prevent a Canker Sore

  • Take probiotics
  • Avoid foods that can trigger
  • Eat healthy
  • Reduce stress and get more sleep

How to Treat a Cold Sore

There is no definite cure for cold sores because once the virus has entered your body, then you have it forever. They will clear up within 2-4 weeks without any treatment, but pills and creams can speed up the process.

  • Ice for discomfort and reduce inflammation
  • Denavir- a prescription cream that decreases pain and speed up the healing process
  • Acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) are pills that decrease symptoms. Be sure to start as soon as you feel symptoms beginning.

How to Prevent a Cold Sore

  • Avoid Physical Contact with someone with an outbreak
  • Keep Your Hands Clean
  • Avoid Makeup
  • Apply chapstick to protect your lips from sun and harsh winds
  • Reduce Stress-meditate, exercise and keep stress levels down
  • Make sure your immune system is strong so eat a vitamin rich diet and a healthy immune system to avoid illnesses that can flare up the HSV.