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Oral Herpes Infection

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

Oral herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV has 2 types. An oral HSV infection is usually caused by HSV type 1. HSV type 2 usually affects the genital area but may also affect the mouth. Blisters may go away and come back again several times. An oral HSV infection that comes back is also known as a cold sore.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a fever, feel achy, or see pus instead of clear fluid in the sores.
  • You have changes in your vision or sudden eye pain.
  • You have eye pain when you look into bright lights.
  • You have sores on your eyes.
  • You have abdominal pain, a severe headache, or confusion.

Call your doctor if:

  • You see fluid that is not clear coming from the sores.
  • Your symptoms get worse or have not gone away within 14 days.
  • You have trouble eating, drinking, or talking because of your mouth pain.
  • You are nauseated, or you vomit.
  • Your eyes feel irritated, or you feel like you have something in your eye.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antiviral medicine helps relieve symptoms and shortens the amount of time you have blisters or sores. You may also need to take antiviral medicine daily to prevent outbreaks.
  • Pain medicine may be recommended if you have trouble eating or drinking because of the pain. The medicine may be given as a mouth rinse. Use it as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Eat soft, plain foods until your sores heal. Foods such as eggs, yogurt, soup, rice, and pasta may be easier for you to eat. Do not eat crunchy, dry, salty, or spicy foods such as dry toast, popcorn, or chips. Do not have foods or drinks that contain citric acid, such as grapefruit or orange juice.
  • Drink cool liquids to help decrease mouth pain. Do not have carbonated liquids, such as soft drinks or sparkling water. A straw may help you drink more easily if you have blisters on your lips or tongue.
  • Use ice to help reduce swelling or pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the bag with a towel before you place it on your lip. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.

Prevent the spread of HSV:

  • Avoid close contact with others until your blisters or sores heal. Close contact includes touching, kissing, and oral sex.
  • Do not share items with anyone. Examples include eating utensils, towels, and lip balm.
  • Do not touch your sores, blisters, or scabs. The virus may spread from your fingers.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Use germ-killing gel if soap and water are not available.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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