Since childhood, most of us are used to getting blisters on our lips. These blisters never stay more than a couple of days and are never that painful, but they can become a nuisance to our looks, much like getting pimples are. Our parents always told us it was because we ate our food in the sun, and we were chastised and told to always seek shelter from the sun while we ate. That was the explanation we were offered and mostly accepted without question. But as some of us got older and started exploring other sources for information, we learned that the cause of these blisters wasn’t actually standing under the sun while eating, but rather an infection that gets easily transmitted from one person to another by direct contact.
Herpes is the name behind the infection that is responsible for these blisters. Most of us often get them around our mouths, and it can pass from one person to another through acts as simple as kissing, sharing a water bottle, a spoon, and other forms of direct contact. A baby can get herpes as soon as it’s born if its brother, who has herpes, kisses the baby on its cheeks. This is how easily this infection is transmitted!
The cold sores/blisters we get around our mouths are never really that troublesome, and they usually disappear without treatment. But herpes has another subtype that can cause these same blisters around the genital area. The two types aren’t exactly the same though – they are caused by the same virus. However, just because someone has a cold sore, it doesn’t mean they also have the genital subtype of the virus.
Herpes virus is capable of staying in our bodies without causing any symptoms for years. Once we have herpes, we have it for life. Since it’s a chronic condition, we can treat it to contain the symptoms but it never fully goes away. It’s kind of like HIV in that way. That’s why we get cold sores and then won’t see them again for years! What usually happens during this period is that the virus lives dormantly inside our body, but we don’t see any symptoms because our immune system is able to contain the infection.
There are certain triggers for the Herpes infection to arise like exposure to the sun, recovering from another unrelated infection, and the likes that can decrease the ability of our immune system and increase the chance of us getting a cold sore. So after all, our parents were right in the sense that they understood the correlation between sun and cold sores. Exposure to the sun can be a trigger for recurrence of cold sores, but as for the misconception that the cold sore resulted because of eating food within direct proximity to the sun; well that misconception so far is still just a misconception and to this day has no basis of facts.
One major thing to be aware of is that if you ever go to the doctor to get tested for STIs, they usually skip the Herpes test (for genital herpes) unless you have an active case because blood tests won’t be able to differentiate between gential herpes and herpes that presents as cold sores. The more you know!