Although the intensity of cold sore symptoms can vary greatly, everyone goes through the same cold sore stages from the time of infection until their last outbreak.
Cold Sore First Stage: Tingling, Itching, or Burning
Cold sore stages pictures can show us more about what to expect. We can see a normal mouth with no visible changes during the first stage. Tingling, itching, or burning signal the beginning of a cold sore before it is visible. People with recurring outbreaks often learn to recognise the signs during the first stage. This usually happens about 24 hours before blisters appear. At this stage, treatment is a preventive measure, and can sometimes stop the virus from erupting and prevent it from advancing to the second stage. Even if the blister still appears, treatment can lessen the severity and duration of the outbreak.
Cold Sore Second Stage: The Appearance of Fluid Filled Blisters
The second stage usually starts one or two days after the first stage has begun. This is when the blister(s) first appear on your skin, and the area around and under the blisters will begin to appear red.
You can still apply cold sore treatment after blisters appear or during any of the more advanced stages, but it is best to start the treatment as early as possible. Early treatment helps to eliminate any cold sore swelling and pain that accompanies the blisters. Different people experience different levels of discomfort from cold sore blisters. Those with one cold sore might have minimal discomfort. Someone with 2 or 3 cold sores at once will probably have more pain, not to mention more embarrassment due to the increased visibility of the symptoms.
It is important to stay hydrated during the second stage. Increase your water intake and take measures to prevent the spread of the herpes virus. Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water after handling the area. Also, avoid citrus, salty, and spicy foods, and hot liquids that might add to your discomfort.
Cold sores are highly contagious. Remember that any contact you have with another person can easily transit the virus to them.
Cold Sore Third Stage: Weeping
A few days after the blisters appear, the cold sore breaks open and the fluid will run out. The blisters turn into flat, red lesions that are painful. When the fluid is weeping from the sores, they are at their most contagious. Avoid touching the area and don’t pick at the sores. The infection might spread or you may develop a secondary bacterial skin infection.
Cold Sore Fourth Stage: Crusting
Once the weeping stage ends, the blister begins to dry and crust over. During the crusting stage, the blisters will turn from red to yellow or brown.
Cold Sore Fifth Stage: The Scabs Fall Off and the Healing Begins
Finally, the lesions begin to heal. They scab over and begin flaking away until they gradually disappear.