Recurrent Herpetic Labialis (Cold Sore)

Recurrent Herpetic Labialis is a sign of infection caused by Herpes Simplex I virus. The infection usually occurs on the lips and the edge of the nostril. The exudates contain Herpes Simplex I virus which is highly infectious.

 showing the presence of recurrent Herpetic Labialis near the angle of mouth of the lower lip.


When the symptoms start to appear, there is an itchy and burning sensation in the affected area where blisters will later be formed. When the blisters burst, they become shallow ulcers of varying shapes.

Why is there Recurrent Herpetic Labialis?

After recovery from Primary Herpetic Stomatitis, the Herpes Simplex I virus becomes dormant in the body. The virus will become active again whenever the body resistance is low, causing Recurrent Herpetic Labialis.

Factors leading to low body resistance include:

  • Mental stress.
  • Physical fatigue.
  • Influenza or other diseases.
  • Menstruation.
  • Sun bathing/Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from lamps.
  • AIDS.
  • Cancer.


Generally, Recurrent Herpetic Labialis will heal within 2 weeks. To avoid pain or passing the virus to others, you can try the following methods:

  • Keep the affected area clean and dry to avoid bacterial infection.
  • Avoid eating hard or spicy food which will irritate the affected area.
  • Avoid touching the affected area with your hands. Wash your hands immediately after touching the affected area. This could prevent the spread of the infection to other people or to other parts of your body such as the eyes or the genital organs, leading to keratitis or other skin infection respectively.
  • Avoid intimate contact with others, such as kissing.
  • You may consult your doctor's or dentist's opinion for applying medicated ointment onto the affected area to relieve discomfort.
  • In severe cases, doctors will prescribe medication to reduce pain.


Herpes Simplex I virus remains dormant in the nerve cells of the body. There is neither medication therapy nor treatment modality that can completely destroy the virus. Therefore, the only thing we can do to prevent its recurrence is to increase our body resistance. For example:

Photograph of a man lying in bed.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Having enough rest.
  • Having balanced diet.
  • Having sufficient exercise.