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Oral Herpes Simplex Virus Infections


Oral herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections cause sores to form on the mouth, lips, or gums. HSV has 2 types. Oral HSV infections are most often caused by HSV type 1. HSV type 2 normally affects the genital area, but may also occur in the mouth. After you are infected, the virus hides in your nerves and may return. An HSV infection that comes back is also known as a cold sore.



  • Antiviral medicine: This decreases symptoms and shortens the amount of time blisters are present. You may also need to take it daily to prevent blisters. The medicine may be given as a liquid, pill, or ointment. Use as directed.
  • Numbing medicine: This decreases mouth pain. It is usually given as a mouth rinse. Use it before you eat or drink, or as directed.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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


  • Eat soft, bland foods: Avoid salty, acidic, spicy, sharp-edged, and hard foods. Eat healthy foods to help healing.
  • Drink liquids: Cool liquids may help soothe your mouth and numb the pain. Avoid citrus or carbonated drinks, such as orange or grapefruit juice, lemonade, or soda. These liquids may cause your mouth to hurt more. A straw may help if you have blisters on the lips or tongue.
  • Use ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Drink cold water or suck on ice to help decrease pain on your tongue or inside your mouth. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag on your lip. Cover it with a towel and place it on your lip for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.

Prevent the spread of the herpes simplex virus:

  • Do not have close contact with people until the blisters heal. This includes touching, kissing, and oral sex.
  • Do not get close to babies or to people who are sick while you have cold sores.
  • Do not share eating utensils, towels, lip balm, or makeup with another person.
  • Do not touch the blisters or pick at the scabs. Do not touch other body parts, especially your eyes or genitals without washing your hands first. Wash your hands often.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms become worse or do not improve a week after you start treatment.
  • You have difficulty eating or drinking because of the pain in your mouth.
  • You get a headache, are nauseated, or vomit.
  • Your eyes feel irritated, or you feel like you have something in your eye.
  • Your skin becomes itchy, swollen, or develops a rash after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You get a fever, feel achy, or see pus instead of clear fluid in the sores.
  • You get sores on your eyes.
  • You have abdominal pain, a severe headache, or confusion.
  • You get new symptoms, or old symptoms return after you have been treated.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Oral Herpes Simplex Virus Infections (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

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