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Q. Can herpes cause cold sore on lip?

Answered by
Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim
and medically reviewed by Dr. Divya Banu M
This is a premium question & answer published on May 25, 2020

Hi doctor,

I have had a bad cold sore 8 weeks ago on my top lip and a bit of the skin above it. I used Zovirax externally 2 weeks course and Acyclovir 2 weeks course to treat it. The actual sore improved, the blister stopped weeping, the scab formed and flaked off within 3 weeks but the redness is still lingering. I rung the doctors that put me through a pharmacist who told me to use Hydrocortisone 1 % cream. I used it for a week as he recommended but it still did not go away. That was two weeks ago.

I also had a new flare up three days ago. Also on the top of my lip symmetrical on both sides. It looks different to a cold sore in that it was some redness and skin flaking.

Home remedies I have tried so far: Aloe vera (not much help), Tea tree oil (irritated it), Manuka oil (helps healing where the sore is but seem to irritate the new flare up), Coconut oil (irritated it), Almond oil (seems to soothening it at the moment). I am worried if this is still unresolved herpes/cold sore and can be transmitted to my partner who does not have herpes. Is it contagious and am I able to kiss my partner?

Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim

Child Health Paediatrics


Welcome to

As per the current picture sent by you, it does not look like a cold sore as of now (attachment removed to protect patient identity). Also, I would advise to stop all ongoing treatment (including the Hydrocortisone) and just leave it alone for a week. Apply Dologel only. It contains Cholinesalicylate along with certain other ingredients that help to heal. No application of any lipstick or any other ointments or creams to the region. I would not advise kissing for 2 more weeks atleast till things resolve to prevent spread. Also, limit alcohol intake if you are currently consuming alcohol. Avoid spicy foods too to promote healing.

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Hi doctor,

Thank you for your comprehensive answer. It was very helpful. I have one last question.

Would you say it is dermatitis or is it a herpetic infection? By limiting the spread do you mean worsening it on my lips if it is inflammation, or is there a risk of transmission to my partner? I have also been avoiding kissing my kids on the cheeks over the past 2 months and I am wondering if it is fine to do so again.

Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim

Child Health Paediatrics


Welcome back to

I would like to maintain my answer as dermatitis with respect to the current scenario. Probably some allergic dermatitis to all the stuff you have been using. By limiting the spread means spread to your partner or kids first followed by counter spread by your partner or kids to you.

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