A cold sore, also known as herpes labialis, is a type of infection by the herpes simplex virus that affects primarily the lip. Symptoms typically include a burning pain followed by small blisters or sores.

Herpes simplex viruses — more commonly known as herpes — are categorised into two types:

1.Herpes simplex virus 1: (HSV-1 or oral herpes) causing sores around the mouth and lips (sometimes called fever blisters or cold sores)

2.Herpes simplex virus 2: (HSV-2 or genital herpes)

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Approximately 90% of adults carry this virus.* The initial infection usually occurs in early childhood or though physical contact with an infected person – the virus remains in the body forever.

Only about 30% of infected people will experience the virus outbreak.* Once contracted, the virus invades the nervous system and stays dormant until a trigger activates it again. Read about the most common triggers here.


Cold sores can last 10-14 days if untreated. If your condition gets worse or has not improved after 4 days of treatment, see your pharmacist or doctor.

Yes. Cold sores can be contagious at any stage of the virus, but they are particularly contagious when oozing blisters are present. For this reason, you should avoid close physical contact or sharing cups and towels with other people when infected.

Read more about our tips for preventing the spread of cold sores here.

The cold sore virus is spread through saliva or direct contact with a cold sore blister. Cold sores are most infectious in the early stages, when the blister is forming, and particularly if the blister splits or leaks fluid. Read more about cold sore stages here.

Though transmission of the virus through indirect contact is rare, it is possible. Care should therefore be taken to avoid sharing towels, glasses, utensils and cosmetics.

Yes, which is why it’s necessary to wash your hands after applying Vectavir cold sore cream or having direct contact with the cold sore; otherwise, the virus can spread. In particular, there is a significant risk of spreading the virus to your eyes if you touch the cold sore and then touch your eyes.

The most common treatment for cold sores is the application of a cream containing an active ingredient that fights the cold sore virus.

Vectavir contains the active ingredient penciclovir, which prevents further spreading of the virus, relieves associated pain, shortens healing time by up to one third and effectively heals cold sores. It’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible so the virus cannot continue to reproduce.

The immune system plays a significant role in the occurrence of cold sore. When the body’s defenses are weakened, either by physical or emotional stress, the virus can extend and activate as the disease.

That’s why people are particularly prone to outbreaks before or during important events that can be emotionally challenging e.g. weddings, pregnancy or job interviews

The fastest way to attack a cold sore is with an antiviral treatment that target the underlying herpes simplex virus. Vectavir contains penciclovir, an active antiviral ingredient that assists with healing, while preventing replication of the virus.

Keeping the lips moisturised to avoid splitting and resisting the temptation to pick cold sore scabs will ensure your cold sore heals as quickly as possible.

No. Today there is no permanent cure for cold sores. If you are experiencing frequent and severe outbreaks, we recommend consulting a healthcare professional.

The best protection is to know the triggers and use these to drive prevention. Nurture immunity, avoid stress and excess sunlight, maintain a healthy diet, get enough sleep and apply sunscreen to your lips to protect against the onset of the virus again.

By recognising and avoiding known risk factors, you could reduce your chance of contracting a cold sore in the first place. Click here to see our top tips for preventing cold sores.

Yes. Fever blisters is another term for cold sores

About 90% of adults carry herpes labialis virus and approximately 30% of adults have recurring cold sore symptoms.* Once contracted, the virus invades the nervous system and stays dormant until a trigger activates it again.


Early signs of a cold sore are sensitivity, redness or inflammation on or near the mouth, where the blister will eventually appear. Many people also report a tingling or itching sensation, sometimes accompanied by numbness.

It is at this early stage that treatment with Vectavir is most effective, though it continues to promote healing once the cold sore has developed.

The frequency of cold sores varies greatly from person to person. Some may get cold sores every few months while some may go years between symptoms. By recognising and avoiding the cold sore triggers which affect you, you can reduce the frequency of your cold sores.

Unfortunately there is no cure for people carrying the cold sore virus. Thankfully antiviral treatments like Vectavir can greatly reduce the severity and duration of cold sores.

No. There is no preventative vaccine for cold sores.