Often referred to as fever blisters or cold sores, HSV Type 1 infections are tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters that most often occur on the face. Less frequently, Type 1 infections occur in the genital area. Type 1 may also develop in wounds on the skin. Nurses, physician, dentists, and other health care workers rarely get a herpetic sore after HSV enters a break in the skin of their fingers.
There are two kinds of infections – primary and recurrent. Although most people when exposed to the virus get infected, only 10% will actually develop sores or cold blisters when this infection occurs. The sores of a primary infection appear two to twenty days after contact with an infected person and can last from seven to ten days.
The number of blisters varies from one to a group of blisters. Before the blisters appear, the skin may itch or become very sensitive. The blisters can break as a result of minor injury, allowing the fluid inside the blisters to ooze and crust. Eventually, crusts fall off, leaving slightly red healing skin.
The sores from the primary infection heal completely and rarely leave a scar. However, the virus that caused the infection remains in the body. It moves to nerve cells where it remains in a resting state.
Many people will not have a recurrence. Others will have a recurrence either in the same location as the first infection or in a nearby site. The infections may recur every few weeks or less frequently.
Recurrent infections tend to be milder than primary infections. They can be set off by a variety of factors including fever, sun exposure, and a menstrual period. However, for many, the recurrence is unpredictable and has no recognizable cause.