Cold Sores: Who Gets and Causes | Tampa | St. Pete | Brandon | LutzCold sores are tiny sores, or blister-like lesions, that develop on the chin, cheeks, lips, inside the nostrils, and less often on the roof of the mouth or the gums.

Suncoast Skin Solutions, led by board certified dermatologist Dr. Christopher Ewanowski, provides cutting-edge skin care treatments to patients in Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and surrounding communities.



Cold sores usually develop due to certain strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 often causes cold sores, while HSV-2 is often the reasons for genital herpes. But either type can lead to sores in the facial or genital areas.

A majority of people who are infected with the virus that leads to cold sores never develop signs or symptoms.

This dermatology condition is most contagious when there are oozing blisters present. However, a person can transmit the virus even if they do not have blisters. HSV-1 may spread by sharing utensils, towels, and razors as well as kissing. Oral sex can cause HSV-1 to spread to the genitals and HSV-2 to the lips.

After a person has an episode of herpes infection, the virus remains dormant in the nerve cells in the skin and may erupt as another cold sore at the same place as earlier.

The recurrence of cold sores may be triggered by the following:

  • Viral infection or fever
  • Hormonal fluctuations, such as those related to menstruation
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Exposure to wind and sunlight
  • Changes in the immune system



Sometimes the virus that causes cold sores can lead to issues in other body areas, such as:

  • Fingertips: It is possible to spread both HSV-1 and HSV-2 to the fingers. This type of infection is usually known as herpes whitlow. Children who such their thumbs may transmit the infection from their mouths to their thumbs.
  • Eyes: At times, the virus can cause an eye infection. Repeated infections may lead to injury and scarring, which may cause blindness or vision problems.  
  • Widespread skin areas: Individuals who have a skin condition known as eczema are at a higher risk of cold sores spreading across their bodies, and this can become a medical emergency.
  • Other organs: In individuals with weakened immune systems, the virus can also impact organs such as the brain and spinal cord.



In case a person develops cold sores often or are at a higher risk of developing serious complications, the doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to be taken regularly. In case sunlight seems to trigger the outbreaks, the patient should apply sunblock to the area where the cold sore tends to emerge.

The patient may try the following to help avoid spreading cold sores to other individuals or to other areas of the body:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with others while the blisters exist. The virus is most contagious when there are moist secretions from the blisters.
  • Avoid sharing items such as utensils, lip balm, and towels when the blisters are present.
  • Ensure that the hands are clean. When a person has a cold sore, they should wash their hands thoroughly before touching themselves and other people, especially infants.

Dr. Ewanowski’s dermatology practice and medical spa receives patients from Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and nearby areas for safe and proven skin care procedures.

SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Petersburg / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz (2 locations), Winter Haven, Largo, Riverview, Brooksville, Ocala, Largo at Bardmoor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Palm Harbor, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.