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Cold sores, which are also known as fever blisters, are small sores which appear on and above the upper lip, the corners of the mouth as well as on the face. Cold sores are very common and can be spread easily. They are a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex two virus. There is no cure for cold sores but they do eventually go away.
When a cold sore is about to appear, there will be a tingling sensation in that area and then redness. Then the cold sore will start to form as very small blisters or these may group together and appear bigger. The third stage is the cold sore becoming a red sore which is most noticeable even by those who have never had a cold sore. These become painful blisters and are very contagious. The last days of the cold sore mean healing and a brown scab may form over the area. If this scab cracks open, like any other scab, it may cause bleeding to occur. The cold sore goes from brown to yellow in the final stages of healing.
Unlike cold sores, canker sores appear inside the mouth. They can appear on the inside of the lips or the cheeks, the base of the gums or under the tongue. They are shallow and painful and may sometimes have a white coating. Those who are most susceptible to canker sores are women and people in their teens and twenties. Canker sores can run in families but they are not contagious. While doctors do not know what causes these canker sores, they may be triggered by stress, bad diet, allergies to food and even menstruation.
Good dental hygiene where you brush your teeth after meals using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste which does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate together with flossing every day can help to keep your mouth free of food. Try not to eat spicy and hard, crunchy foods as well as chewing gum as these can cause mouth irritation.
Canker sores usually go away without the need for any treatment but if these sores are large and painful, making it difficult to eat or drink, and last longer than two weeks then it is wise to seek medical advice. Another cause for concern is if these sores are accompanied by a fever or nausea or they frequently recur.
The main difference is that cold sores appear outside the mouth and canker sores appear inside the mouth. Cold sores are caused by a virus, which will remain in your system, and are contagious. Canker sores on the other hand are not contagious and will go away in time.