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The 5 Cold Sore Stages: A Step-by-Step Guide

A typical cold sore outbreak follows a similar pattern—tingling, blistering, weeping, crusting, healing—and each of these 5 cold sore stages is associated with identifiable symptoms and characteristics. If you contract the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), understanding each phase is important to prevent the spread of the virus and potentially stop outbreaks from occurring. In this article, we’ll help you better understand each stage, so you know when a cold sore is developing, fully formed and contagious, or ultimately on the path to healing.

Before we Begin: How do Cold Sores Form?

Individuals who contract HSV type 1 (HSV-1) or HSV type 2 (HSV-2) can suffer from cold sore outbreaks. While the virus usually remains dormant in the body, certain cold sore triggers can push the virus to replicate and cause an outbreak. Examples of triggers include:

  • Emotional Stress
  • Viral Infections and fever
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dental work or injuries to the skin
  • Exposure to the sun, wind, or cold

Should these or any other triggers initiate the HSV replication process, you will begin to cycle through the 5 cold sore stages. Left untreated, you will likely experience each phase within an 7-14 day period; however, early intervention with a proven treatment method can significantly accelerate the healing process. For treatment, we suggest the Luminance RED, which uses newly available technology to reduce the length of each stage and potentially eliminate certain phases all together. Let’s walk through each of the cold sore stages and learn how the Luminance RED can help heal and prevent outbreaks.

5 Cold Sore Stages

Stage 1: Tingling/Itching

In the earliest stage of a cold sore outbreak, the virus begins to replicate. This causes an initial irritation, usually a tingling or itching sensation, at the spot where the sore will form. This spot is usually on or around your lips, but a cold sore outbreak can occur on many different areas of your body. Left untreated, the cold sore will form about 24 hours after you feel the first tingle.

At the moment you feel the first tingle, we recommend that you begin treatment with the Luminance RED. The FDA registered device utilizes LED-Low Level Laser Therapy to provide your immune cells with a natural boost of energy. With this extra energy, known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your cells can more effectively combat the cold sore virus. Using the Luminance RED at the earliest sign of an outbreak can potentially prevent a cold sore from even forming.

Stage 2: Blistering/Formation

If an outbreak makes it to the blistering stage, fluid-filled blisters will form on the affected area. This is why you often hear cold sores referred to as “fever blisters.” You will likely experience some level of discomfort during this phase. In more serious cases, those suffering from HSV endure significant pain during an outbreak.

Importantly, the virus becomes highly contagious at this stage. Avoid sharing cups and utensils, kissing and intimacy, and be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after touching a cold sore. Taking these preventative steps can help you avoid spreading it to others.

If you continue or begin treatment with the Luminance RED during the blistering stage, you can significantly expedite the healing process. How much faster can the sores heal? According to available clinical data, low level laser therapy can cut healing times by roughly 50% while significantly easing the pain caused by cold sores.

Stage 3: Weeping/Ulcer Eruption

While cold sores are very contagious in the blistering stage, they are most contagious during the weeping phase, so remain diligent about avoiding skin-to-skin contact and not touching the sore. During this time, the cold sore will “pop” and the fluid from the blister will ooze out. A red, open sore will remain on the affected area for a time after the blister bursts.

An untreated sore will likely still cause pain during this stage. Continue (or begin if you have not yet started) treatment with the Luminance RED to lessen the pain you are experiencing.

Stage 4: Crusting/Scabbing

During the fourth stage, your cold sore enters the first phase of the healing process. The open sore will begin to crust over, and you will notice a brown and yellow scab form where the cold sore used to be. While it may be tempting to pick at or peel off the scab, avoid doing so. Allowing the scab to naturally fall off will prevent permanent scarring.

Stage 5: Healing/Return to Dormancy

Your cold sore outbreak ends when the scab falls off. You may notice a faint red spot on your body for a short period, but that should quickly fade.


Will You Experience Another Outbreak?

When you stop an outbreak early or cycle through the 5 cold sore stages, you push HSV-1 back into dormancy. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for the virus. Even when an outbreak is over, the cold sore virus continues to lurk in your body, waiting for another opportunity to replicate and initiate a new outbreak.

Prevention is key, and that is why you need the Luminance RED to boost your cellular energy, combat the virus, and keep it dormant for as long as possible. For more information on how the Luminance RED prevents cold sore outbreaks and heals them fast, visit our FAQ or “How it Works” page.

If you feel a cold sore developing now and need the Luminance RED ASAP, select expedited shipping during checkout. Start your treatment soon and keep cold sores at bay; order your Luminance RED treatment device now.

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