What is herpes?

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), also known as oral herpes. This virus causes an infection that can be spread from one person to another by close, direct contact. Oral herpes appears as a fever blister, commonly known as a cold sore. Another form of this virus, HSV-2, may lead to the sexually transmitted disease genital herpes.

Break the stigma of oral herpes

Oral herpes symptoms

The herpes simplex virus typically leads to one or multiple blisters on or around affected area. In the case of HSV-1, these symptoms of oral herpes are noticeable bumps around the lips.

Learn more about cold sores

Triggering the oral herpes infection

Once infected, the herpes simplex virus never leaves your body. It usually enters through a break in the skin around or inside the mouth.

After the first infection, the herpes simplex virus moves from your skin cells to your nerve cells and remains there permanently. HSV-1 hides in nerve cells located at about the level of your temple.

HSV-1 stays inactive but can become reactivated when triggered and infect the skin cells. These triggers can include: stress, illness, fever, surgery, sun exposure and menstrual periods.

Find out how herpes spreads

HSV-1 is spread by skin-to-skin contact