Oral herpes, or cold sores as it is commonly called, is a contagious and recurring skin disease. This disease is caused by herpes simplex virus. Oral herpes is the skin condition caused by type I of the herpes simplex virus. There is another type of this virus as well, which causes the skin condition commonly known as genital herpes. Both these types can affect skin on any part of the body, but type I is usually restricted to infecting areas above the waistline, whereas type II usually affects skin on the areas below the waistline.
Oral herpes spreads from one person to another. The virus spreads from the saliva of the infected person and any contact with the blisters caused by the infection. Oral herpes causes liquid filled blisters to appear on the surface of the skin. These blisters can be very painful and also cause severe inflammation of the skin. The liquid in the blisters eventually dries up leaving only dry scabs in its place, which also eventually clear from the surface of the skin. However, oral herpes is most contagious when there is still liquid in the blisters. It can sometimes ooze out if the blisters get punctured. Contact with this liquid can substantially increase one’s risk on contracting this disease. This infection can spread to the fingertip that touches the liquid and even to other areas of the skin that come in contact with the fingertip. This is one of the most common ways in which oral herpes spreads from one part of the body to another and even from one person to another.
Kissing is another common way in which oral herpes spread. When a person gets infected with oral herpes, the virus becomes present in his saliva. When an infected person kisses another, whether or not contact is made with the infected skin, the virus can spread to the other person through the saliva left on the surface of his skin. This is the most common reason for the occurrence of cold sores in children. Sometimes, even after the infection has receded, the saliva of the infected person continues to carry the herpes simplex virus in it for weeks. So, even if a person has recovered from the oral herpes infection himself, he can spread the disease to another person until the herpes simplex virus continues to exist in his saliva.
Similarly, even after a person’s oral herpes infection has cleared itself, the skin that was affected continues to shed dead skin that contains the herpes simplex virus. So, even after the skin starts to appear normal after the oral herpes infection is clear, contact with this skin can spread the virus to another person.
Some people build a lot of resistance to the herpes simplex virus after they have suffered from that infection once. In their case, the presence of the herpes simplex virus on their body does not cause any infection. Such people are asymptomatic carriers of the herpes simplex virus and can spread it to other people, which not showing any symptoms themselves.