To stop a cold sore from spreading, you have to take active steps to limit skin-to-skin contact, including not touching the blister. As the virus can be transmitted to others, practicing good hygiene habits and taking medication are usually crucial for preventing the spread of the disease. Additionally, how you prevent the spreading may require different techniques when dealing with children rather than adults.
That blister or cluster of sores that pops up following a tingly, itchy feeling in the skin means that at some point in your past you have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus. These small blisters most often appear around the outer edges of the mouth but can appear in other regions in the body, such as the nose or fingers, especially if you pick at a blister and then rub your hands in your face without washing them. This is because these blisters are filled with a clear, contagious fluid. To stop the expansion, take pains to wash your hands after applying any medication directly to the cold sore and remember to keep the fingernails clean as well. Alternatively, you can use a disposable cotton ball or swab to apply the medication directly to your herpes sores.
When you have an active cold sore outbreak, the infection is also in your saliva, so you should take care not to lick your contact lenses or you could end up with a cold sore to the eye, a much more serious condition. As the saliva contains the virus, you should not share any personal items with anyone else in your home, including utensils, glasses, and towels, to keep the cold sore from spreading. You can also practice good hygiene habits by washing these items thoroughly after each use. As the virus is likely to have gotten into your toothbrush or products applied directly to your lips, you should change your toothbrush and throw away lip products used while the infection was active to prevent reinfection.
To prevent spreading cold sores, you have to avoid direct contact. This includes avoiding giving oral sex if you have an active infection and not kissing. Such direct contact, however, does not only apply to intimate moments with sexual partners. You also need to avoid hugging, holding hands, and other forms of close or casual contact. Take, for instance, an action as simple as a handshake. If you have a cold sore outbreak and have recently touched the blister with your hand, those few seconds of contact could be enough to spread the virus.
For young children with draining cold sores, it may be best to keep these children out of school, childcare facilities, and playgroups until the blisters have started to scab. If you apply ointment to their cold sores, you should wear gloves to prevent spreading the infection to yourself. To keep the cold sore from infecting other children, toys that the child places in his mouth should not be shared with other children. If you borrow toys from a toy-lending library, swap toys among friends and family members, or rent toys, be sure to disinfect these items before your children play with them and before returning to keep the cold sore from spreading.
Once a cold sore has appeared, it has to run its course. Medications that help to dry up the blisters and reducing the intense itching can help you keep from picking at the sores and speed up healing so the sore is less likely to spread. Antiviral medications, for instance, can help reduce the pain and limit the size and number of sores to keep them from spreading.