The cold sore virus typically causes a tingling sensation followed by painful blisters on the lips and around the mouth. But can the sores appear on or inside your nose?
Yes! Cold sores on, under, or inside the nose are real. In a 2009 medical report,¹ a patient had severe blisters on her nose. Doctors found that the cold sore virus was the reason behind her condition.
This guide covers the following:
What are nose cold sores?
What causes nose cold sores?
Symptoms, treatment, and prevention
What to do if you have a cold sore in your nose
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While cold sores commonly affect the lips and mouth, the viral infection can form painful blisters on, inside, or under your nose. The disease is caused by a highly contagious virus called herpes simplex. It has no cure, but proper treatment can help you manage the infection.
Nearly 50% of Americans have the virus and the chances of having it increase with age. But symptoms are not always evident. Many people may have herpes simplex, but not all get cold sores.
Cold sores, also known as herpes labialis, are a recurring infection. Once you catch it, the chances of striking again are high — but symptoms will be less severe than the initial attack. The infection is incurable, but you can treat the symptoms with prescribed or over-the-counter medicines.
As mentioned, nose cold sores are caused by herpes simplex. The virus has two forms: herpes simplex type 1 and type 2. Both can result in cold sores, but type 1 commonly causes the infection.
While the virus will stay inside your body for life, cold sores generally disappear on their own after a few days. The disease-causing organism is usually inactive and mostly strikes when triggered. Common triggers include menstruation, stress, a weak immune system, and exposure to sunlight.
However, our bodies react differently to triggers. What reactivates the cold sore virus in you might not do the same to another person.
Additionally, the infectious virus can spread through kissing or oral sex. Essentially, open sores or the fluid from the blisters spread the disease. Here are the signs and symptoms of cold sores.
The cold sore virus thrives in wet surfaces inside the nose and mouth as well as the lips. It causes an itching sensation followed by painful, fluid-filled blisters that can affect your nose's outer surface or the region beneath it. The infection can spread to the surrounding skin or inside your mouth.
While nose cold sores may not be life-threatening, they are bothersome. They are usually unsightly the first time they appear since your body hasn't yet produced antibodies against the infection. Possible signs and symptoms include:
General body weakness
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
When the blisters start healing, they may form a scab that can easily break and bleed. In most cases, the sores disappear on their own between 7–14 days. An infected person who doesn't manifest cold sore symptoms may still spread the disease to others.
Cold sores usually affect the lips and mouth. But don't worry if they appear inside or near your nose. Also, try not to panic if you've read somewhere that the cold sore virus will stay in your body for life once you contract it.
Generally, the infection isn't life-threatening (except for newborn babies), and its damage to your skin isn't permanent. The sores usually disappear in a few days, but treating the symptoms with medication can accelerate healing.
Don't pop the blister because the fluid inside can spread the infection. We recommend washing your hands whenever you touch the affected area to avoid transmitting the virus to the surrounding skin. You can also try out one of the treatment methods below.
While nose cold sores can go away without medication, treatment may accelerate healing. Over-the-counter cold sore medications like creams, antiviral gels, and patches treat the symptoms and promote quick healing.
Their effectiveness and safe use rely on following instructions properly. Most of them are effective if you start treatment within a day of symptoms manifesting.
Alternatively, you can buy antiviral tablets to treat the infection, as prescribed by your doctor. Examples include aciclovir, valaciclovir, and famciclovir.
If the cold sores have spread to your lips, applying sunscreen can prevent sunburn (a trigger for future flare-ups). If symptoms persist after a few days, please see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Cold sores have no cure. The available treatments promote healing. Therefore, prevention is the best way to avoid infection.
Avoid triggers like overexposure to sunlight, stress, and extreme temperatures that can activate the virus. Doing so helps prevent cold sores from recurring if you're already infected.
Since the herpes virus is contagious, protect yourself and those close to you in the following ways:
Don't kiss anyone infected (the virus can spread through saliva).
Wash your hands after applying medication to the infected area (fluids from the blisters might spread the infection when you touch the surrounding skin).
Don't share personal items.
Some say prevention is better than cure. But in this case, cold sores have no cure. So, prevention is the safest way to avoid frequent flare-ups.
Note: Don't kiss a baby if you have cold sore symptoms. Doing so is life-threatening to the infant because it can cause neonatal herpes.²
Cold sores typically disappear on their own within 7–14 days. They go away even faster if you use medication. If the infection spreads instead of healing within the estimated time frame, please seek help from a qualified medical practitioner.
Some people may mistake a serious infection for cold sores. The best way to know the cause of your symptoms is by talking to a qualified physician. That way, you'll prevent incorrect self-diagnosis and be able to follow the appropriate course of treatment.
Can you get cold sores inside the nose? Yes. The herpes virus can cause painful blisters in or around the mouth, on the lips, or inside the nose. The infection can affect the surface of your nose and the area beneath it.
While the infection has no cure, it goes away in a few days. Over-the-counter cold sore medicines or prescribed tablets can speed up healing. If symptoms persist for several days, even after treatment, visit a doctor.
How to treat cold sores inside nose | Abreva
Cold sores: Overview (2006)
NCHS data brief, number 304, February 2018 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Can cold sores be prevented? (2006)
What causes cold sores under the nose and how to deal with them | Medical News Today