Cold Sores vs. Canker Sores | What's the Difference
Having an outbreak of sores near or inside your mouth is never any fun, and in addition to being painful, sores can also be embarrassing. Despite over half of the population having to deal with these at one point or another, most people don’t know the difference between cold sores and canker sores, or even how to treat them. Worry not--the Stryx team is here to clear it all up!
What are Cold Sores?
Credit: Penn Medicine
Also known as “fever blisters,” cold sores are somewhat painful blisters that generally form either on or around your lips. That said, sometimes you may have them appear in your mouth, although this is far less likely. What Causes Cold Sores? Cold sores are caused if you’re infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2, although it’s more likely to be caused by type 1 (“oral herpes”). HSV type 2 is the type that causes genital herpes, but can also cause cold sores. They can be triggered by many things, including anxiety or stress, or even just by hormonal changes, and can take up to 14 days to heal.
Are Cold Sores Contagious?
Herpes is contagious, and does spread without much difficulty from person to person. According to the CDC, almost 60% of people living in the U.S. have one form of herpes. It’s impossible to get rid of the virus or infection. Simply being in close contact with someone who’s infected is enough to make it spread, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
What are Canker Sores?
Credit: Verywell Health
Canker sores--also called aphthous ulcers--tend to be either gray or white, and are surrounded by a red edge. If you have a canker sore, it’ll appear inside your mouth: usually on your lips, cheeks, or even your throat. Canker sores can be quite painful for the first few days, and healing takes around 10 days.
What Causes Canker Sores?
No one knows what precisely causes canker sores: it could happen for a multitude of reasons. For example, it might be triggered by a weak immune system, some medications, or when you bite your cheek accidentally. Some people get canker sores due to allergies, food sensitivities, or a poor diet. For other people, medical conditions may cause it as well. In other words, there’s no one main culprit!
Are Canker Sores Contagious?
Fortunately, there’s one thing we do know when it comes to canker sores: that they’re not contagious. They also can’t be spread via saliva. This is because there aren’t any viruses or bacterias in the sores, so while they’re extremely irritating, they’ll go away on their own without you needing to worry about affecting anyone else!
What is the Difference Between Cold Sores and Canker Sores?
There are two main differences between cold sores and canker sores: where they’re located and their contagiousness. While cold sores are caused by herpes and are highly contagious, canker sores cannot be spread from person to person. And as for location, cold sores almost always appear outside and around your mouth, either right under your nose or chin, or around your lips. On the other hand, canker sores only form inside your mouth. So while they’re both sores that form on your face, they’re clearly very different!
How to Treat Cold Sores
Should you have an outbreak of cold sores, it’s important to know there is no treatment that will cure it. Depending how severe or frequent your outbreaks are, your doctor may recommend certain treatments, such as zinc oxide after the cold sores become crusts, or rubbing alcohol to dry out the sores when they first show up. You can also get OTC painkillers or medicines to keep your skin soft while it’s healing, or use some ice--although you shouldn’t put it directly on your skin!
How to Treat Canker Sores
Canker sores usually will get better in a few days, so in most cases it’s good to just wait it out. If it lasts a bit longer or you have an unusually large or painful sore, look for topical products such as creams or pastes to put on the sore, or rinse your mouth with warm water and salt or baking soda. If it’s particularly painful, your doctor may prescribe oral medications or steroid pills.
Whatever treatment you use, you’ll need to wait a while to see its effect. Need a quick fix to cover that sore on your face while you’re waiting for it to heal? Check out our Concealer Tool to bring your face back to normal in no time. Good luck!