Cold vs canker sore


Is It a Canker Sore or a Cold Sore–and How Do You Get Rid of It?

Also see a doctor or dentist if your canker sores are making it hard to eat or drink or if they last longer than two weeks.

RELATED: How to Get Rid of Canker Sores and Prevent Them From Ever Coming Back

What is a cold sore?

Unlike canker sores, cold sores appear outside your mouth, often on the corner of your lip. Also called fever blisters, they are in fact little blisters that tend to break quickly, leak fluid, then eventually scab over. You might feel a little tingling in the day or two before a cold sore appears.

There’s no mystery about what causes cold sores: It’s the herpes simplex virus 1 or HSV-1. This isn’t the same as the virus that causes genital herpes (HSV-2), but they’re similar in that once you have the virus, it never goes away. Herpes viruses are extremely contagious and very common.

After the initial infection, HSV-1 travels up the nerve, staying out of sight until something triggers it. Then, it migrates back down the nerve to the mouth. “Once it establishes itself, any time there’s trauma or any sort of transient lapse in immunity, the virus is going to manifest itself,” says Patel.

Stress is a big trigger, along with sun exposure, fatigue, your period, and other infections (like a cold). If you know your triggers, you may be able to prevent an attack (for example, by reducing stress or putting zinc on your lips before going outside).

RELATED: How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Fast–and Avoid Getting Another One

Most cold sores go away in their own time, usually seven to 10 days after they appear. The pain often reaches a peak in the first 24 hours. In the meantime, there’s little you can do except address the pain: Try icing the blisters or taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

Topical antiviral creams or ointments may lessen pain or quicken healing, but only if they’re applied at the very beginning of the outbreak or, even better, during the tingling phase.

Cold sores generally aren’t harmful unless your immune system is otherwise weakened, say because of another condition like HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment. In these cases, there is a greater risk of the virus affecting the brain or spinal cord, and, says Patel, “you’re going to have to treat them a little more aggressively.” That could mean taking an oral antiviral, like acyclovir, on a long-term basis, he says.

Cold sores also spread like wildfire, so it’s important to take steps to prevent them. “You’ve got to be careful not to share straws, lip balm, or lipstick, or drink from the same glass,” warns Rodriguez.

If you happen to touch a cold sore, wash your hands right after, and make sure you don’t touch any other part of your body, especially the eyes, because you can transmit HSV-1 to yourself. “Just ignoring cold sores isn’t necessarily the best way to take care of them, as they can spread to other body parts,” Rodriguez says. Don’t scratch or pick at the blisters, either.

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The difference between a canker sore and a cold sore

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One of the main differences between cold sores and canker sores is location. Canker sores usually appear inside your mouth, while cold sores appear on the outside.

The two sores are also caused by different things. “One is clearly caused by viruses, and the other could be different things for different people,” says Patel.

Cold sores are also extremely contagious, while canker sores are not at all.

While canker sores tend to last a little longer, both types of sores are harmless unless you have an underlying immune-system problem.

Both cold sores and canker sores develop in and around the mouth, so people often mix them up or aren’t sure which type of sore they have.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are caused by a herpes virus and are extremely contagious. These sores are small, fluid-filled blisters that often break soon after they appear, leak fluid, and then form scabs. Some people who get cold sores feel a tingling sensation shortly before a cold sore appears. The sores occur because of the presence of the herpes simplex virus 1, also called HSV-1, in the body. It is a different virus than what causes genital herpes, but both viruses remain in the body indefinitely.

After the initial exposure to HSV-1, a person typically has a more severe outbreak of herpes around the lips or other areas on the outside of the mouth. This outbreak may also include a fever or pain in the lymph nodes. After the first outbreak, future outbreaks are generally less severe but the virus remains in the nerves until something triggers it to migrate back to the mouth. Some of the most common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Sun exposure
  • Surgery
  • Menstruation in women
  • Illness
  • Fevers
  • Fatigue.

Cold sores generally go away after one or two weeks on their own, although they can be very painful in the first few days.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are ulcers that appear on the inside of the mouth, often on the tongue, lips, and inside of the cheeks. The ulcer starts as a small bump, which then bursts within a day or two, leaving a yellow or white sore with a red border around the edge. Canker sores can appear alone or in clusters and can vary in size.

How to Tell Them Apart

While cold and canker sores might feel the same when the painful lesions appear in your mouth, they have slightly different symptoms. The signs of cold sores include:

  • Painful clusters of blisters on the lips, gums, tongue, and roof of the mouth, usually only on one side of the mouth.
  • Itching and burning at the sore sites.
  • Fluid oozing from the sores, which later become crusty.

Signs of canker sores include:

  • Small, painful ulcers on the tongue, roof of the mouth, and inside of the cheeks.
  • Tingling and burning at the sore sites.
  • Round lesions that are white or off-white with reddish borders.

One of the key differences between cold and canker sores is that canker sores typically only develop inside the mouth, whereas cold sores usually appear on the outside of the mouth, often around the lips.

The Causes of Cold vs. Canker Sores

Cold sores are typically caused by herpes simplex virus type 1. Because the sores are contagious, you can get the virus from kissing or engaging in oral sex with someone who has open sores. You can even get a cold sore if someone touches their own open sore and then touches you, as the virus is passed through sink-to-skin contact. Once you’re infected with the virus, you carry it for life.

Canker sores are not transmitted via any type of contact, nor are they contagious. Rather, they commonly result from situations or trauma, such as:

  • Biting your inner cheek or tongue
  • Rough dental work
  • Eating acidic or spicy foods
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Trauma to the mouth
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Hormonal changes.

Some people might be genetically predisposed to developing canker sores. Others experience outbreaks as a result of triggers. Those who have dry mouths often get more canker sores. In some situations, canker sores also indicate the presence of something more serious in the body, such as an autoimmune condition. Recurring canker sores have indicated that a person has celiac disease or another type of health disorder, so it’s important to contact a healthcare provider if you can’t get rid of your canker sores.

Both cold and canker sores resolve on their own within about a week or two.

How to Treat Cold Sores?

Although no cure is available for the herpes virus, you can treat the symptoms when you experience cold sores. Topical antiviral ointments and creams may shorten the healing process, although they often only do so when you apply them before the sore breaks out. For some people, using the ointment or cream after the sore has appeared can lessen pain. These topical treatments are available over the counter. Applying ice to the cold sore after it has appeared on the mouth can numb the area and lessen the pain as well.

Your healthcare provider may also prescribe you oral antiviral medication to manage outbreaks of cold sores, especially if you have other health conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or an autoimmune disorder. These medications are called famciclovir, acyclovir, and valacyclovir. If you’ve been previously diagnosed with herpes, Nurx can prescribe oral herpes treatment online and deliver the medication to your door with free shipping. To request herpes treatment from Nurx, get started here.

How to Treat Canker Sores?

Since the cause of canker sores can vary drastically between people, they are not as easy to treat. You can use over-the-counter pain medication or a numbing topical gel to treat the pain. For some, gargling with warm salt water or a solution of baking soda and water can shorten healing time and reduce pain as well. If your canker sore is making it difficult to eat or drink or lasts longer than two weeks, contact a healthcare provider.

Although both canker sores and cold sores cause pain and discomfort in the mouth, their causes are different. Canker sores are not contagious and usually appear as the result of a situation or trauma to the mouth, while cold sores are extremely contagious and occur because of the presence of the HSV-1 virus.

Do you experience canker sores or cold sores? Your mouth may be telling you something.

As the weather gets colder, you’re more likely to get canker and cold sores. These two conditions are commonly mistaken for one another.

Although they’re not the same, both canker sores and cold sores have similar triggers and treatments. It’s important to understand the difference between canker sores and cold sores so you can effectively treat them. But if we break it down, we see that they are two different conditions, with similar causes.

Your mouth is an incredible measure of the health of your body’s immune system. Let’s take a closer look at the differences so you can find relief faster.

Canker sores are small, painful lesions that develop on the soft tissues of your mouth or at the base of your gums. Canker sores, also called aphthous lesions or mouth ulcers, don’t usually appear on the outside of the mouth and they aren’t contagious.

Canker sores normally heal on their own within one or two weeks. However, you should consult your dentist or doctor if you have chronically occurring canker sores or an abnormally large canker sore that doesn’t heal on its own.


Canker sores are shaped like a circle or oval, are yellow or white in color, and have a red border. The places they form in the mouth are different for each person. Canker sores most often show up:

  • Under your tongue
  • Inside your cheek or lip
  • At the base of your gum line
  • Anywhere on your soft tissue palate

Having an irritated sore on sensitive parts of your mouth often causes pain while eating, drinking, and talking. The pain of an active canker sore is rarely intolerable but is often extremely annoying.

There are three different classifications of canker sores: minor canker sores (the most common), major canker sores, and herpetiform canker sores. Major canker sores are the same as minor canker sores except they are larger, deeper, more painful, and take longer to heal.

Herpetiform canker sores usually develop later in life and are about the size of a pinpoint. Despite the name, they’re actually not caused by the herpes virus infection. They develop in clusters ranging from 10 to 100 and sometimes they all merge together.

Both major and herpetiform canker sores are rare while minor canker sores occur quite often.


Determining the cause of a canker sore is a frustrating guessing game. The exact nature of canker sores isn’t clear, although many determining factors have been identified. These include:

  • A minor injury in your mouth (aggressive brushing, cheek bite, sports accident, etc.)
  • Oral hygiene products like toothpaste or mouthwash that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
  • A diet deficient in zinc, folate, iron, or Vitamin B-12
  • An allergic reaction to particular bacteria in your mouth
  • Emotional/Hormonal stress
  • Food sensitivities

Certain diseases such as Celiac or HIV/AIDS have been known to provoke canker sores. Researchers assume that canker sores are caused by a combination of factors and triggers within an individual.

How to cure and prevent canker sores

Canker sores have no defined root cause, making it discouragingly difficult to anticipate their arrival. But you may experience a tingling or burning feeling in your mouth a day or two before one appears. Anyone can develop canker sores but females and adolescents are more prone to getting them.

Take these steps to possibly prevent canker sores from occurring:

  • Avoid triggering food: Avoid foods that irritate your mouth such as, certain spices, acidic fruits, spicy food, and salty food.
  • Eat healthily: Choose to eat a diet that contains all your necessary nutrients. Fill your plate with plenty veggies, which are fiber and phytonutrient rich.
  • Add fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E, and K2 are great for boosting your immune system and helping your body naturally rid itself of both canker and cold sores.
  • Practice excellent oral hygiene: Brush twice a day and floss at least once a day. Maintain regular visits to the dentist.
  • Manage your stress: Learn how to cope in high-stress situations by practicing meditation or listening to relaxing music. Reducing stress-levels not only prevents canker sores, but you’ll end up a little happier, too!
  • Sleep better: your immune system’s time to replenish is when you sleep! If you suffering from day-time tiredness or poor sleep you might need some tips to improve your sleep.

Home Remedies for Canker Sores

There are simple home remedies for canker sores that help with pain, speed up healing time, and prevention.

  • Apply honey to your canker sore.
  • Apply ice or something cold to your canker sore.
  • Dab milk of magnesia on your canker sore.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
  • Rinse your mouth with a mixture of baking soda and warm water.
  • Brush your teeth with caution and care.

Medical Treatments

Most minor canker sores don’t require medical treatment. However, major canker sores and certain incidents of recurring canker sores, do require attention from a doctor.

Your doctor or dentist may prescribe:

  • A mouth rinse, usually one containing dexamethasone
  • A topical product, with active numbing ingredients like benzocaine or hydrogen peroxide
  • A medication, such as an oral steroid medication

These medications only deal with the symptoms of canker sores. In certain situations, it may be necessary but remember that canker sores can be controlled through a strong immune system.

Try immune system boosting techniques such as increasing your vitamin D levels before opting for strong medications.

Cold sores, or fever blisters, are small fluid-filled sores that usually occur in clusters. These painful blisters often appear on the nose, lips, or anywhere around the mouth.

You might feel a tingling sensation on your skin before a cold sore appears and in about two days the cold sore is developed. Later, it breaks and oozes, leaving a crust-like layer over the blister. Unfortunately, they take two to four weeks to heal, leaving you with an unattractive scab on the affected area.

A cold sore passes through three stages of development:

  • Tingling, itching, burning- Often, people will feel a cold sore coming on one or two days before it actually appears.
  • Blisters- A breakout occurs and small clusters of blisters form on various areas of the face.
  • Crusting, scabbing, oozing- Cold sores may merge and burst, which leaves shallow open sores that crust over.

First-time outbreaks can involve other symptoms such as headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, and a sore throat.

Causes of cold sores

A cold sore is a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV, HSV-1 causes cold sores and HSV-2 causes genital herpes. Both of these viruses are extremely contagious, especially when the blisters are open.

Once the cold sore virus has invaded your system, it never leaves. The virus may lie dormant for a long period of time or it may cause frequent reoccurring cold sores. There are certain triggers that can provoke cold sores to recur, such as:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Harsh wind or sunlight
  • Hormonal changes

Cold sores are the product of a common viral infection, not related to the common cold as the name suggests. Once you acquire HSV-1, you’ll always be susceptible to getting cold sores for the rest of your life. However, some people are more prone to them than others and your environment can also play a part in triggering cold sores.

How to prevent or cure cold sores

Cold sores are extremely contagious but there are ways to protect and prevent picking up this virus. Here are some tips for cold sore prevention:

  • Don’t engage in physical contact with someone currently suffering from an outbreak
  • Ramp up your immune system and maintain excellent immune system health
  • Monitor vitamin D levels
  • Eat a diet rich in fat-soluble vitamins
  • Always keep your hands clean
  • Avoid sharing personal items (utensils, towels, lip balm, etc.)
  • Avoid triggering a cold sore by:
  • Practicing stress reduction coping skills
  • Staying out of excessive sunlight exposure
  • Limiting your cosmetic dermatologic procedures (lasers, peels, etc.)

It’s nearly impossible not to obtain HSV-1 – it’s estimated that 90 percent of adults test positive for the cold sore virus, even if they’ve never shown signs of an outbreak.

Home Treatments

Most cold sores are painful and the healing process lingers. In the meantime, you can practice these holistic techniques to ease the pain and speed up healing time.

  • No hands: don’t touch your cold sore as it can dry it out or cause a bacterial infection.
    Apply something cold: an ice cube will ease the pain and reduce swelling.
  • Licorice extract: mix petroleum jelly with this natural extract and apply to the area for a speedy recovery.
  • Aloe Vera: this soothes inflammation while also moisturizing the cold sore.
  • Take your Vitamins: Vitamin-E aids the body with skin cell production and Vitamin-C can boost levels of white cells, which fight off viral infections.
  • Take it easy: take small bites when eating and avoid any aggressive movements that could break open your cold sore.

Getting a cold sore is very common and although they’re annoying, they’re usually tolerable. Over the counter medications can aid in healing and provide pain relief.

If your cold sores are unbearably painful or recurring, consult a doctor for medical advice. In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication that attempts to fight the virus.

Canker Sores vs. Cold Sores: Identify Your Ailment

To tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore, there are certain attributes to look for. Canker sores appear on the soft tissues inside the mouth, while a cold sore usually shows up on the outside of the mouth. A canker sore is an ulcer and a cold sore is a blister.

Also, canker sores aren’t contagious but cold sores are very contagious. It’s essential to analyze and identify your condition in order to have the best treatment possible.

Canker and cold sores have characteristics that distinguish one from the other. Finding out whether you have a canker sore or a cold sore is the first step towards a more effective treatment.

But remember, both canker sores and cold sores are two different conditions that signal your immune system is low.

Your immune system is ultimately controlled by your diet. In The Dental Diet I’ll show you how to manage your mouth and body for full-body health and prevent sickness!

Share this article with someone who could benefit from learning more about canker and cold sores!

For more information on Dr. Lin’s clinical protocol that highlights the steps parents can take to prevent dental problems in their children:

Want to know more? Dr. Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.

Click below to order your copy now:

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Cold Sores vs. Canker Sores: What’s the Difference?

These two mouth irritants aren’t the same thing. Find out how to tell which one you might have and, better yet, what to do about them.

Although sores in and around the mouth may be embarrassing, they shouldn’t be, because they’re very common. At least half the population gets canker sores, and about the same amount gets the virus that can cause cold sores. But the two types of sores are completely different, so here’s what you need to know to tell them apart.

1. Known versus unknown causes

Cold sores, also called fever blisters or oral herpes, are most often caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1, which people usually pick up in childhood. Although the virus then settles into bundles of nerve cells in the body and may never bother you again, it stays with you for the rest of your life and can pop up from time to time.

The causes of canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, are less known. It may be that the immune system mistakenly attacks the mucous cells of the mouth. Canker sores are also linked to Crohn’s disease and other systemic conditions, including nutritional deficiencies; they may also be caused by stress, hormonal shifts or allergic reactions to certain ingredients in food or toothpaste.

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(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)

2. Oozing blister outside the mouth versus painful ulcer inside

The way cold sores and canker sores appear is very different, too. Cold sores occur most often outside your mouth, in the corners or on your lip. If you find one inside, it’s usually on harder tissue, such as your gums or the roof of your mouth. Cold sores form blisters that then break open, ooze and crust over. You may feel a tingling or burning sensation before a blister appears.

Canker sores are small and round or oval and develop in the soft tissue inside your mouth. You might get one behind your lip, on the inside of your cheek or under your tongue. They’re red, flat and often have a whitish top. If they become large or painful, they may prevent you from comfortably eating and drinking.

3. Contagious versus not contagious

Perhaps the most important thing to know is whether these conditions can be passed to others. Cold sores are highly contagious, especially when you have an active one — but you can transmit the virus even when you don’t. It’s spread by saliva or skin contact. If you touch your cold sore, wash your hands right away to avoid spreading the virus to other parts of your skin.

Canker sores, on the other hand, aren’t contagious, so you don’t have to worry about giving them to anyone else.

If they do show up, what’s the best treatment?

Most of the time, both types of sores will heal by themselves within a week or two, but medications are available to ease their effects.

For cold sores, taking an antiviral medication at the earliest sign may reduce pain and shorten the outbreak, according to Sharon Orrange, MD, an internal medicine physician at Keck Medicine of USC and a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The type of medication you choose, however, can have an impact.

“Topical medications for cold sores don’t work that well, are expensive and usually require frequent daily applications,” Orrange says. “But evidence shows that drugs such as valacyclovir effectively reduce both healing time and the duration of pain.”

For small, painful canker sores, she suggests using an over-the-counter numbing medication. But if you have large painful canker sores that are making it difficult to eat, you should ask your physician for help.

“Prescription pastes and gels are available that can help speed your healing,” Orrange says. “Also, see your doctor if your canker sores recur, because the recurrence could indicate celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or HIV.”

Although they’re annoying, sometimes painful and can’t be cured, there’s good news about canker and cold sores: In the majority of cases, both are relatively harmless and don’t have lasting consequences.

by Tina Donvito

Are you concerned about a recurring or painful canker sore or cold sore? Our expert primary care physicians can help. If you’re in Southern California, request an appointment or call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273).

At our office, we know many people have experienced some form of mouth sores or irritation. Some mouth sores are harmless and go away on their own after a few days, while others are more serious and should not be ignored. Mouth sores occur for many different reasons, but bacterial infections, viruses, or funguses often trigger them. The best way to tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore is that canker sores occur inside the mouth while cold sores occur on the outside the mouth.

The most common mouth sores are:

Canker sores: A non-contagious, small, grayish ulcer with a red border, canker sores appear inside the mouth. While outside factors such as stress, fatigue, or allergies may increase the chances of developing a canker sore, most health experts believe they stem from bacteria or a virus that attacks the immune system. Canker sores typically heal within a week or two.

Cold sores: Also called fever blisters, cold sores are contagious groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are the result of the herpes simplex virus, and once infected, the virus remains in the person’s blood stream.

Leukoplakia: A potential warning sign of oral cancer, leukoplakia is a premalignant lesion that appears as a white patch on the inside of the mouth, tongue, or gums. The lesions, which are caused by excessive cell growth, usually afflict those who smoke tobacco. Dr. Craig S. Donn may choose to have the lesion biopsied if the outbreak appears severe.

Oral candidiasis: Also called oral thrush or moniliasis, this condition is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida. Common symptoms of oral candidiasis include white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue, redness or discomfort in the mouth area, sore throat,difficulty swallowing, and cracking at the corners of the mouth. It is important to visit Dr. Craig S. Donn if you have oral candidiasis. If left untreated, it may infect your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous. Healthy adults do not usually get thrush, and the condition is most often seen in infants, the elderly, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or people with AIDS or other diseases that are known to weaken the immune system.

Should you have a mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an examination at our Cherry Hill, NJ office.

Cold sores vs. canker sores — Oral sex risks?

Dear ignorant,

There is often confusion between canker sores and cold sores. In a nutshell, canker sores are painful ulcers, or open sores, on the inner membranes of the mouth and cheek, or can resemble pimples on the tongue. Canker sores are not considered to be contagious and are of uncertain origin.

Cold sores, on the other hand, are small red blisters that generally affect the mouth and facial areas, but usually appear on the lip and outer edge of the mouth. In contrast to canker sores, cold sores are extremely contagious and are most often caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). When oral herpes sores and/or its contents come into direct contact with the genital area through oral-genital sex, genital herpes can develop.

Although it is more likely that the sores that develop in your mouth are canker sores, you may not be able to tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore by sight. If you’re unsure, it’s wise to treat your sore as though it is a herpes sore and contagious. It’s usually a good idea for any partner who currently has sores to abstain from having sex until they have completely healed. However, herpes can be transmitted when a sore is not present through viral shedding. When engaging in sexual activity, it might be best for you and your partner to use safer sex methods every time you have sex (oral or otherwise). These can include using a male or female condom, a dam, or other barriers that completely cover the areas with sores to help reduce the chances of transmission of the herpes virus or any other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If you have not already done so, consider seeing a health care provider as soon as possible — a diagnosis of genital herpes is easier when symptoms (sores) are present. Doing this will allow you to be certain about your herpes status, give you time to ask additional questions, and receive appropriate treatment. In addition, if you are diagnosed with genital herpes or another STI, and if you and your girlfriend have had any unprotected sexual activity involving skin-to-skin contact and/or an exchange of bodily fluids since having had oral sex, it is recommended that she visit a health care provider for an examination, as well.

Check out the related Q&As to learn more about the distinction between cold sores and canker sores and managing herpes. Hopefully the confusion around cold sores, and your actual cold sore, is now clearing up!


STDs of the Mouth and How to Avoid Them

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are contracted through various forms of sexual activity. Oral sex, according to AVERT, is common to sexually active adults of all ages and orientations. This can result in the disease taking hold in the tissues surrounding the contact area, and some infections are more likely to affect the mouth than others.

The most common STDs of the mouth are herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Keep in mind it’s also possible to contract illnesses such as Hepatitis A, B and C, as well as other gastrointestinal infections.

Method of Transmission

The main method of transmitting STDs of the mouth is through contact with bodily fluids. In most cases, the presence of oral sores causes fluids from an infected partner’s genitals to enter the body, and a localized infection develops. Diseases can also be transmitted from the mouth of an infected person to the genitals of his or her partner.

Symptoms to Look For

Symptoms depend on the type of STD contracted. Oral gonorrhea, as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is also called pharyngeal gonorrhea because it typically affects the pharynx.

Symptoms that could indicate an oral STD include:

  • Sores in the mouth, which may be painless.
  • Lesions similar to cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth.
  • Red, painful throat and difficulty swallowing.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Redness with white spots resembling strep throat.
  • Whitish or yellow discharge.

Often, an oral STD doesn’t produce any noticeable symptoms, according to Brown University’s Student Health Services. So it’s important to be aware of both your own oral health and that of your partner as best you can.

Treatment for Oral STDs

Your form of treatment will differ depending on the type of STD you have and its severity. Mild oral herpes, for example, can be treated through the prescription of a topical anesthetic to reduce the pain from oral blisters and lesions while the immune system works to restore your oral health. In more severe cases, however, anti-viral medications can help to speed up the process. A solution such as Colgate Peroxyl Mouth Sore Rinse is recommended by dental professionals to cleanse and soothe canker sores, denture and mouth irritations.

Oral gonorrhea is usually treated with a range of antibiotics called cephalosporins; however, the emergence of drug-resistant strains is causing concern among medical practitioners, so it’s important for patients to follow treatment instructions very diligently. Syphilis is most commonly treated with penicillin, suggests Mayo Clinic, whereas oral chlamydia is treated with antibiotics such as azithromycin or doxycycline, according to the CDC.


If you’ve had any of these STDs of the mouth in the past and received treatment for them, it’s possible for you to contract the same or a different disease again if you have sexual contact with an infected partner. Oral herpes can remain dormant for some time and become active again down the line, particularly in patients who have weakened immune systems.


The only way to prevent yourself from contracting an oral STD is to practice safe sex, including safe oral sex. You should also maintain a high standard of oral hygiene, which reduces your risk for developing any type of sore or infection in the mouth.

I’ve recently gotten oral sex from a girl with a cold sore. Yes we used a condom but her mouth did touch skin. The encounter only lasted a short while. I took a shower aporx 15 min later. what is the likely hood i may have contracted herpes one or two?

Only time will tell. A cold sore on a person’s lips, tongue, or mouth is an outbreak of oral herpes. Oral herpes is most often caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus type 1. Up to 8 out of 10 American adults have oral herpes. Genital herpes is most often caused herpes simplex virus type 2. Both types, however, can cause oral or genital infections. Both are very contagious when sores are present, open, moist, or leaking fluid. Both are also contagious when there are no sores. And both can be spread by touching, kissing, or any other skin-to-skin contact, including sex. Even brief skin-to-skin contact is enough to spread either kind of herpes virus.

Waiting until sores completely heal after the scab falls off is a good way to avoid getting or spreading herpes. Using condoms is another way. So the fact that you used a condom during oral sex did help reduce your chance of getting infected. Learn more about herpes.

Tags: cold sores, herpes, oral sex

What can cause a bump on the lip?

There are many possible causes for lip bumps:

Cold sores

Share on PinterestOne of the most common causes of lip bumps is HSV.

The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common viral infection that can cause cold sores on the lip and around the mouth. Cold sores are small fluid-filled blisters that can be painful and itchy.

HSV is contagious, and people can easily become infected through direct contact with the sores.

Cold sores usually clear up on their own within a week or so.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease

Another viral infection that can cause lip bumps is hand, foot, and mouth disease or HFMD. Symptoms of HFMD include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • a sore throat and mouth
  • feeling unwell
  • red spots in the mouth that develop into painful sores
  • a rash on the fingers, hands, soles of the feet, buttocks, and groin

HFMD is a common condition in children under 5 years old. Although very contagious, HFMD is rarely severe. Most people recover without medical treatment within 7 to 10 days.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that results from a bacterial infection. It often begins with red, painless sores that can appear on the genitals or around the anus but sometimes also on the lips or inside the mouth.

Symptoms can often be mild at first, and many people may not realize they have the disease. Doctors can usually treat syphilis with antibiotics. However, it can cause severe complications if left untreated.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, is an infection that results from a type of yeast known as Candida. This yeast is naturally present in the mouth, but it can sometimes cause problems if it grows too much.

Symptoms of oral thrush can include:

  • white patches or splotches on the tongue, throat, and inner surfaces of the mouth
  • redness and cracking at the corners of the mouth
  • loss of taste or an unusual sensation in the mouth
  • redness or soreness
  • pain when eating or swallowing

Anyone can get oral thrush, but people with weakened immunes systems are at greater risk than others. A person can often treat oral thrush with an OTC antifungal medication.

Allergic reactions

Share on PinterestCertain makeup products, such as lipstick, may cause an allergic reaction.

An allergic reaction to a specific substance known as an allergen may cause inflammation of the lip followed by a bump.

Allergens that can trigger a reaction on the lips include some foods, pet dander, and some lipstick products, such as those containing titanium and other harsh chemicals.

People with this type of reaction usually experience a sudden lip swelling that normally disappears after a while.

Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots are clusters of small white or yellowish spots on or near the lips. They are not contagious or painful.

These spots are enlarged sebaceous glands that naturally exist on the lips and other moist tissues, such as the inner mouth cheeks or the genitals, and usually disappear over time.

Canker sores

Canker sores are small, flat ulcers that can form inside the lips or cheeks, on the tongue, or at the base of the gums. They typically develop in adolescents and young adults and can keep reoccurring throughout a person’s life.

Canker sores are usually painful but are not contagious. Triggers can include stress, injuries to the mouth, and certain foods, such as coffee, chocolate, strawberries, peanuts, and tomatoes. The sores usually go away on their own within a week or so.


Mucoceles, or mucus retention cysts, are harmless, fluid-filled swellings that form on the lower lip, gums, or the lining inside the mouth.

People usually experience mucoceles after an injury, such as accidentally biting the lip, or from blockage of the salivary gland, which is responsible for draining saliva into the mouth.

Most mucoceles go away on their own without treatment.


Milia are small, white cysts that can form on the skin. They are often seen in newborns and tend to develop on the face, particularly on the nose, chin, or cheeks, but sometimes also along the border of the lips.

Milia result from dead skin cells that become trapped inside small pockets on the skin’s surface.

They are harmless, painless, and require no medical treatment, usually disappearing on their own within a month or two.

Perioral dermatitis

Perioral dermatitis is a common skin condition that resembles acne or rosacea. People who have this condition develop a small, reddish, bumpy rash around the mouth and on the chin.

Doctors are unsure what causes perioral dermatitis, but the use of face creams containing corticosteroids, certain cosmetic creams, or skin contact with water or toothpaste containing fluoride may be potential triggers.

Oral cancer

Rarely, lip bumps can be a symptom of oral cancer. This type of cancer occurs when a tumor develops on the lips or lining of the mouth.

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • smoking or use of tobacco products
  • heavy alcohol use
  • being male
  • prolonged exposure to natural sunlight and artificial sunlight, such as from tanning beds

Early symptoms of oral cancer include tiny sores or lumps appearing on the lips that do not heal. These sores can grow and spread to the inside of the mouth, gums, tongue, and jaw. Sometimes, they can also turn from white to red.

Anyone who thinks they may have symptoms that could suggest oral cancer should consult a doctor.

Other possible causes

Other possible factors of lip bumps include:

  • lip dryness
  • sunburn
  • reaction to foods, such as strawberries, chocolate, coffee, peanuts, or tomatoes
  • stress

News and Stories

When you get outside this summer, you won’t be alone. Bugs are everywhere, and a few of them in Minnesota are known to bite or sting.

We asked Kavita Monteiro, MD, at HealthEast Clinic – Stillwater, what to do when a bug bites you or your family.

“In general, I recommend you wash the area with cool water and soap to remove as much of the bug’s saliva as possible,” Dr. Monteiro says. “Then avoid itching by using an ice pack or cold towel.”

Dr. Monteiro also suggests mixing water and baking soda into a paste and applying it to the bite to draw the venom out.

But not all bug bites are the same. Here’s a guide to five types of bug bites and stings you may encounter this summer:

  • Bees, wasps, and yellow jackets
  • Biting flies or gnats
  • Mosquitoes
  • Spiders
  • Ticks

Bees, wasps, and yellow jackets

What’s normal

These stings typically cause immediate pain, redness, and swelling at the site of the sting. Sharp pain usually subsides in 15 minutes or so. Soreness is typical for a few days after.

How to care for a typical sting

  1. Remove the stinger, if there is one, by gently scraping it out with something like the edge of a credit card. Don’t use tweezers, because that can push more venom into you.
  2. Use a cold pack or cool cloth to reduce swelling and pain.
  3. Medications to consider: an antihistamine to keep the swelling isolated and a topical anti-itch cream or spray.

When to see a doctor

Stings can create an allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical attention if a sting causes:

  • Substantial swelling beyond the site of the sting or swelling in the face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Dizziness or trouble breathing or swallowing
  • You feel ill after being stung 10 times or more at once

If a sting becomes seriously infected, contact your primary care doctor.

Due to bacteria under finger nails, scratching an itchy bug bite is the most likely way infections begin.

“You can recognize infection by its hallmarks, which include increasing redness, warmth to the touch, pain and pus,” Dr. Monteiro says. “If these symptoms are mild, you can try a topical over-the-counter antibiotic or a topical over-the-counter steroid. If that’s not helpful, you should see your doctor.”

Three ways to prevent stings

  1. Be mindful of what you wear outside. Avoid floral prints and bright colors; they can look like flowers that attract the insects. Wear closed-toed shoes.
  2. When eating outside, keep food covered and garbage contained. Avoid the sweet drinks these insects like. If beverages aren’t in a sealed container, look before you sip.
  3. Stay calm if you notice a bee, wasp, or yellow jacket nearby. Aggressive movements can lead to stings, because the insect is defending itself. Instead, walk away slowly. Do not jump into water, because bees are known to hover.

Biting flies or gnats

What’s normal

Black flies (buffalo gnats), horse flies and deer flies make small cuts to the skin to feed on your blood. Some typically bite the body or legs, while others target the head and neck. Flies may bite repeatedly.

Bites are painful and felt immediately. Swelling, itchiness, redness, and light bleeding are typical. Black fly bites can lead to swollen lymph nodes.

How to care for a typical bite

  1. Clean the wounds with soap and water. Keep them clean until healed to prevent infection.
  2. Use a cold pack or cool cloth to reduce swelling.
  3. Use a topical cream or oral antihistamine to reduce itching.

No biting flies in Minnesota are known to transmit disease, though some deer flies in other parts of the world do.

Seek immediate medical attention if you notice difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or eyes, or dizziness. Contact your primary care doctor if a fly bite becomes infected.

Three ways to prevent fly or gnat bites

  1. Avoid the places biting flies are most active: marshy, forested, shaded areas, and areas with dense vegetation. Maintaining your yard can reduce your risk.
  2. Because bites occur where skin is exposed, wear pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat. Wear light colors, because biting flies are more attracted to the heat of dark clothing.
  3. Insect repellents may protect you from some types of biting flies, but not all.


Mosquitoes bite to feed on blood, but the bites aren’t always felt when they occur. For some, blister-like bumps appear moments after being bitten, then a dark, itchy, bruise-like mark develops. For others, a small, itchy, red bump can develop about a day after being bit.

Mosquito bites typically itch and may cause a degree of redness and swelling in children. To relieve discomfort, consider using:

  • A cold pack or cool cloth
  • A topical anti-itch cream or spray
  • An oral antihistamine

Most mosquito bites go away after a few days without intervention. On rare occasions, however, mosquitoes are known to transmit disease, including West Nile virus. If you have body aches, diarrhea, fever, headaches, nausea, or other symptoms that appear within about two weeks of the bites and seem to be related, contact your primary care doctor.

Three ways to prevent mosquito bites

  1. Remove standing water — a breeding ground for mosquitoes — from around your home. Check after it rains; water may pool in unexpected places.
  2. Wear light-colored clothing that covers your skin and apply a repellent, but only after you’ve applied sunscreen. Take special care to follow instructions when applying repellent to children, and don’t use it on babies younger than 2 months.
  3. Stay inside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes bite most. 


Most spider bites are misidentified; they’re actually bites from other bugs or an unrelated skin irritation. Typical reactions to a true spider bite include swelling, redness, pain, and itching, though some might hardly be noticeable.

  1. Clean the wound with soap and water. Keep the wound clean until healed to prevent infection.
  2. Use a cold pack to reduce swelling and pain.
  3. If the bite is on a leg or arm, rest with the leg or arm elevated.
  4. Medications to consider: an antihistamine to keep the swelling isolated, a topical anti-itch cream and an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Some people have allergic reactions to spider bites. Seek immediate medical attention if a spider bite leads to difficulty breathing or swelling in the face and neck. Proper diagnosis is more likely if you are able to take a picture or capture the spider that bit you, even if it’s no longer alive. Do not swat the spider against your skin.

Poisonous spiders are rare in Minnesota. Symptoms of a poisonous spider bite develop within 30 minutes to eight hours and include:

  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Severe pain
  • An ulcer at the site of the bite

If a spider bite becomes seriously infected, contact your primary care doctor.

Three ways to prevent spider bites

  1. Insect repellents on clothes and shoes can keep spiders away. Take special care to follow instructions when applying repellent to children, and don’t apply to children under 2 months old.
  2. Keep the outside of your home clear of woodpiles and tall grass where spiders like to hide. Inside, ensure window and door screens are in good repair, seal any cracks where spiders can enter, and vacuum under beds and furniture.
  3. When cleaning up areas of the house where spiders may live — including attics, basements, garages and gardens — wear a hat, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and close-toed shoes. Inspect items carefully before moving them.


When ticks bite, it isn’t typically painful, but it is noticeable. Ticks remain attached to the skin and attempt to crawl underneath. It’s normal for a small bump to develop where you’ve been bitten, but not a rash.

Ticks are small – even as small as a poppy seed – so careful detection is key to removing them and preventing complications.

  1. Using tweezers, grab the tick as close to your skin as you can.
  2. Gently pull the tick straight out, making sure to pull out the entire insect. Do not jerk or twist, and avoid crushing the body.
  3. Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water.

It’s helpful to have a way to identify what kind of tick bit you, in case you develop an infection. You can photograph the tick before removing it, or place it in a small container and freeze it after removal.

Some ticks are known to carry disease, but not every tick bite requires a trip to the doctor. Dr. Monteiro explains:

“A black legged tick, also known as a deer tick, that has been attached for more than 24 hours is concerning, because these ticks can carry disease. After 24 hours, they’re more likely to transmit Lyme disease. Some studies indicate it could be less than 24 hours, which is why doctors recommend checking your skin for ticks every day. Personally, if I can pull the ticks off before that 24-hour mark, I feel pretty comfortable that I won’t get Lyme disease.”

Lyme disease symptoms usually show up three to 30 days after the tick bite. Contact your primary care doctor if:

  • You can’t completely remove the tick that bit you.
  • The tick has been under your skin for more than 24 hours.
  • You develop flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, body aches or joint pain.
  • You develop a rash, and the rash gets bigger or is shaped like a bulls-eye.
  • The bite appears infected.

Three ways to prevent tick bites

Ticks tend to be found in areas with tall grass, bushes, and lots of trees and bite only when you brush up against the plants they’re climbing. To prevent tick bites:

  1. Use clothing as protection: wear a hat, long sleeves and closed-toed shoes, and tuck your pants into your socks to keep covered. Ticks can’t bite through clothes and are easier to see on light-colored clothing.
  2. Insect repellents can keep ticks away. Take special care to follow instructions when applying repellent to children, and don’t apply to children under 2 months old
  3. If you’re going to spend time in a wooded or grassy area, stay on paths and trails. Check your skin — and your pets — for ticks before you leave those areas and after you’ve gone inside. Showering within an hour or two can help you do a full inspection.

To visit a Fairview clinic, call 855-FAIRVIEW or pick a Fairview provider and choose from their available times. For HealthEast clinics, call 651-326-CARE.

Aphthous Mouth Ulcers

  1. What are aphthous ulcers?
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Diagnosis
  5. Complications
  6. Treatment
  7. Prevention
  8. Prognosis
  9. FAQ

What are aphthous ulcers?

Aphthous mouth ulcers (aphthae) are a common variety of ulcer that form on the mucous membranes, typically in the oral cavity (mouth). Other names for aphthous ulcers include aphthous stomatitis and canker sores.

Aphthous ulcers are generally round in shape and form in the soft areas of the mouth such as the inside of the lips, the cheeks or the underside of the tongue. They are benign, non-contagious and can occur as single ulcers or in clusters. In most instances, aphthous ulcers are recurrent – a condition known as recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS) – with each episode normally lasting for between 7 and 10 days. The cause of the condition is unclear, and there is no cure, but treatment options are available to treat the pain the ulcers can cause.

Good to know: Aphthous ulcers are the most common type of mouth ulcer, but they are not the only kind of mouth ulcers.

There are three main types:

Minor aphthous ulcers

These are the most common variety. They are small in size – usually less than 5 mm in diameter – and can form as a single ulcer or in a cluster. They typically do not cause much pain.

Major aphthous ulcers

These are less common, are generally 5 mm or larger and form singularly or in a pair. They can be painful, especially when eating or drinking, and last anywhere between two weeks and a number of months.

Herpetiform ulcers

These can occur when multiple pinpoint lesions fuse together and form large, irregularly shaped ulcers. Herpetiform ulcers are so called because of their similarity in appearance to herpes, however, herpetiform ulceration is not caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Symptoms of aphthous ulcers

Aside from the ulcers (aphthae) themselves, the condition has very few symptoms. Before ulceration occurs, some individuals may begin to feel a burning or itching sensation inside the mouth, which can be painful. Once the ulceration occurs, localized pain of various degrees is often present.

What do aphthous mouth ulcers look like?

The ulcers (aphthae, canker sores or mouth sores) are normally shallow and begin as pale yellow in colour, generally turning grey as the condition develops. They may be ringed with red or appear fully red when inflamed. Depending on where the ulcers are located, eating, drinking and talking may become uncomfortable.

Good to know: In severe cases, aphthous ulcers can result in swelling of the lymph nodes, fever and physical fatigue or lethargy. These cases, however, are extremely rare, and the swelling of the lymph nodes is therefore unlikely to be a first sign of aphthous ulcers. If you are concerned that you may have aphthous mouth ulcers, you can do a free symptom check with Ada at any time.

Causes of aphthous ulcers

The precise cause or causes of aphthous ulcers (canker sores) are unknown, however, it is thought that ulceration is brought about by one or a combination of external triggers. It may also be partly genetic, with 40 percent of people who experience ulcers having a family history of the condition. Aphthous mouth ulcers affect around one in five people at least occasionally and most commonly begin to appear between the ages of 10 and 19.

Possible triggers of aphthous ulcers include:

  • Emotional stress
  • Minor injury to the inside of the mouth, for example from cuts, burns or bites while eating, dental work, hard brushing or ill-fitting dentures
  • Familial tendency
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate – an active ingredient in some toothpastes and mouthwashes; this compound is not proven as a trigger, but is known to prolong the time needed for ulcers to heal
  • Certain food and drinks, including coffee, chocolate, eggs and cheese, as well as acidic or spicy foods
  • A deficiency of certain vitamins and/or minerals including zinc, B-12, folate and iron that may present with anemia
  • An allergic reaction to oral bacteria
  • Using, as well as quitting, the use of tobacco products
  • Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy
  • Having a weakened immune system, due to certain chronic conditions (Immunodeficiency)

Stress is a common cause of mouth ulcers. Although stress does not directly cause mouth ulcers, it does increase the chances of developing them and can affect their healing process. Mouth ulcers can also cause stress by affecting how and what the affected person can eat and drink.

Good to know: Dentists are able to advise on ways to reduce the risk of developing aphthous mouth ulcers, for example recommending toothpastes and mouthwashes that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate or advising on correct brushing equipment and technique to reduce the chance of injury to the inside of the mouth.

Some medications are also linked to the development of ulcers, however, they may not always cause the aphthous variety of ulcers. They include:

  • Nicorandil, a drug used to treat angina pectoris, a heart condition
  • Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Oral nicotine replacement therapy opposed to patch replacement therapy
  • Medicines such as aspirin if left to dissolve in the mouth instead of being swallowed
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine

Very rarely, recurrent ulceration can be a possible sign of several serious diseases, including:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Behcet’s disease

The ulcers that are symptomatic of these disorders, however, are technically not aphthous but closely resemble aphthous ulcers and are therefore called aphthous-like ulceration. People who experience recurrent outbreaks of ulcers or ulcers that are slow to heal, especially painful or accompanied by other symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you or someone you know has recurrent mouth ulcers or ulcers that do not heal, you can do a free symptom check with the Ada app at any time.

Diagnosing aphthous ulcers

In most cases, especially when the condition is not recurrent, diagnosis will be based around medical examination and an investigation of an individual’s medical history.

A proper evaluation and diagnostic work-up of recurrent ulceration is important due to its links to other, more serious conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or conditions causing a weakened immune system, such as HIV/AIDS. The diagnostic process may involve the ruling out of these conditions through blood tests or, less often, using a gastroscopy or colonoscopy, possibly also obtaining tissue samples. The course the diagnostic work-up will take will depend on the doctor’s evaluation of the severity of an individual’s condition and the presence of any other symptoms.

Complications of aphthous ulcers

Although most mouth ulcers will clear up within two weeks, in very rare cases they may become infected with bacteria. This usually only happens in severe cases, where the ulcerated area is extensive.

In the case of a secondary bacterial infection, an antibiotic mouthwash and a means of managing the pain and discomfort may be prescribed. In some cases, oral antibiotics may also be needed (see the section below on treatment).

Aphthous ulcers treatment

There is no cure for aphthous ulcers, aphthae or canker sores, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. In the majority of cases, the ulcers will disappear without treatment and avoiding hard or irritative foods, like e.g. pineapples, applying cold substances to the affected area and if needed using numbing preparations, like topical lidocaine or benzocaine will be enough to manage the pain.

When further treatment is required, there are several possible options, with the chosen route depending on a doctor’s judgement of how well each may work, based on the location and severity of the ulceration, and the affected person’s general health.

Anti-inflammatory treatment

Over-the-counter, topical anti-inflammatory pastes applied directly to the problem area may be effective in managing the symptoms of aphthous ulcers (aphthae/canker sores), particularly of the minor variety. These pastes should be applied between two and four times per day, please follow the specific recommendations of your pharmacy or doctor.

Antiseptic and Antibiotic treatment for aphthous ulcers

The use of an antiseptic mouthwash e.g. containing chlorhexidine, twice per day or as per your doctor’s recommendations can be part of a treatment regimen of aphthous ulcers. In rare cases a doctor may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline or minocycline, which can be effective in treating ulcers. They are typically administered in mouthwash form, with the antibiotic being dissolved in water, swilled around the mouth and spat out. This may be necessary several times per day for a number of days.

Good to know: Antibiotic mouthwashes containing tetracycline should be avoided in children younger than eight years of age or even older, depending on your doctor’s recommendations, as they can cause the teeth to become discolored.

Other treatments for aphthous ulcers

Other treatments may include topical or, rarely, oral steroids, typically used when the ulcers are unresponsive to other treatment methods; silver nitrate;; other local anaesthetics/numbing agents; and nutritional supplements (containing folate, zinc or vitamin B-12, for example).

Home remedies for aphthous ulcers

There are a number of popular home remedies for aphthous ulcers, including:

  • Rinsing the mouth with salt water
  • Rinsing the mouth with a solution of baking soda/sodium bicarbonate and water
  • Application of milk of magnesia to the ulcer after rinsing
  • Application of ice chips or cubes to the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Teething ointments containing local anaesthetic to manage pain and discomfort
  • Reducing stress
  • Avoiding hard foods or foods that may scratch the interior of the mouth

Nutritional supplements such as Vitamin B-12 capsules, Vitamin D capsules, folate tablets, or zinc tablets can also reduce the risk of developing canker sores.

Aphthous ulcers prevention

To lessen the likelihood of an ulcer outbreak, especially for those with a history of recurrent aphthous ulcers (aphthae), a number of measures can be taken.

  • Avoiding foods that may trigger ulceration in the individual person
  • Focussing on a healthy, balanced diet containing sufficient amounts of nutrients and vitamins
  • Maintaining good dental hygiene and using a soft toothbrush to avoid irritation
  • Reducing stress and getting plenty of sleep

Aphthous ulcers prognosis

Aphthous ulcers (aphthae) are generally non-serious and will go away without any particular treatment.

Ulcers that heal on their own within a few weeks are not an indication of oral cancer and are non-infectious. The ulcers, however, can be very painful and inconveniencing, especially if they are recurrent. Many people will find that they stop getting aphthous ulcers as they get older.

Good to know: If an ulcer or group of ulcers does not heal within three weeks, or lasts for longer than three weeks, the affected person should see a doctor as soon as possible for a proper diagnostic workup. In some cases, a persistent ulcer may indicate oral cancer.

Aphthous ulcers FAQs

Q: Are there any home remedies for aphthous ulcers (aphthae)?
A: There are a number of popular home remedies for aphthous ulcers, including:

  • Rinsing the mouth with a warm salt water/saline solution
  • Applying a small amount of milk of magnesia to the ulcer after rinsing
  • Sucking ice chips or cubes to reduce swelling
  • Teething ointments containing local anaesthetic
  • Avoiding hard foods or foods that may scratch the interior of the mouth or may cause irritation due to their acidic nature, like e.g. pineapple, lemons, oranges or tomatoes while the ulcer sore is present
  • Reducing stress

Q: Can I get aphthous ulcers (aphthae) in the genital region?
A: Yes, although oral aphthous ulcers are most common, aphthous ulcers may also appear in the genital region. This is most common in women, with the ulcers normally forming on the vulva or adjacent skin. The ulcers are in most cases of similar appearance to the oral version and may be similarly painful.

Q: Is it safe to have oral sex if the performing partner has mouth ulcers?
A: Mouth ulcers, because they are breaks in the skin inside the mouth, increase the risk of contracting sexually-transmitted infections such as herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. This risk can be reduced if the receiving partner wears a condom or if a dental dam is used. Good oral care and proper oral hygiene techniques can reduce the chances of developing some mouth ulcers or other breaks in the oral skin.

Q: Can smoking cause mouth ulcers?
A: Smoking can make mouth ulcers worse. The nicotine in cigarette smoke may reduce the amount of blood that flows to the mouth and gums, which may then slow down the healing process for any ulcers, cuts or scrapes inside the mouth. Slow healing means that the painful period is prolonged and increases the chance of infection.

At the same time, it seems to be the case that smoking may reduce the chance of developing mouth ulcers, because it hardens the surface of the epithelial cells in the mouth. However, smoking has many other harmful effects on the body and should be avoided.

Q: What is recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS)?
A: Recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS) is the name given to the condition of experiencing frequent bouts of aphthous mouth ulcers (aphthae). Although a single bout of aphthous stomatitis is possible, recurrent episodes are the norm. Episodes of recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS) typically occur at intervals of between a few months to a few days and last for between 7 and 10 days at a time.

Q: What is the relationship between aphthous ulcers (aphthae) and Behçet syndrome? A: Behçet syndrome is characterized by inflammation in various areas of the body. Behçet syndrome is by some experts considered an autoimmune disorder and by others an autoinflammatory disorder. Autoinflammatory disorders, like autoimmune disorders, are caused by an overactive immune system attacking the body’s tissues and causing inflammation. One of Behçet syndrome’s distinguishing symptoms is the presence of aphthous ulceration in the oral cavity (mouth), as well as ulceration on others parts of the body, including the genitals and additionally often present inflammation of part of the eye, called uveitis . Although mouth ulcers are a symptom of Behçet syndrome, mouth ulcers are common, and Behçet Syndrome is rare. Only very few people who experience mouth ulcers are affected by Behçet syndrome.

Q: What is complex aphthosis?
A: Complex aphthosis is the given name to the condition of having almost constant oral aphthae or recurrent oral and genital aphthae without having Behçet syndrome. When complex aphthosis is suspected, medical attention should be sought for diagnosis and treatment.

Q: Can systemic lupus erythematosus cause mouth ulcers?
A: Mouth ulcers can affect about half of all people with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disorder. Lupus-related ulcers are not aphthous mouth ulcers, and while they may be painful in some people, they are often not painful for many others. They commonly affect the roof of the mouth, but can also appear on the gums, lips and inside of the cheeks. They resemble aphthous mouth ulcers, being red sores, but may also be more varied in presentation, e.g. some may have a whitish, radiating halo. People with lupus may also experience ulcers in the nose.

Q: Can gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD/GORD) cause mouth ulcers?
A: Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux, is a condition in which gastric acid leaks up into the esophagus or, less likely, also into the oral cavity/mouth. If acid enters the mouth, GERD can cause the erosion of tooth enamel and an acidic taste. Mouth ulcers can develop. GERD may also cause a feeling of a sore throat and, in some cases, throat and esophageal inflammation and ulcers may develop. If GERD causes ulcers, they will more likely be found at the back of the mouth, the back of the tongue and the back of the throat, because of the path of the acid coming up from the stomach.

Q: Can chemotherapy cause mouth ulcers?
A: Yes, chemotherapy often causes mouth ulcers. Chemotherapy can cause inflammation of the mucosal lining of the throat and mouth, leading to sores in the mouth. Technically, if occurring in the mouth,the painful condition and ulcers caused by chemotherapy are known as stomatitis and may be related to mucositis, a condition which affects a larger area of the digestive tract’s mucosal lining. For more information, read this resource on the side effects of chemotherapy.

Q: Can Hepatitis C cause mouth ulcers?
A: Yes, Hepatitis C or its treatment can sometimes cause mouth ulcers and other mouth conditions, such as tooth decay or a sensitive mouth by e.g. affecting saliva production and causing a dry mouth. Because Hepatitis C is a complex condition, people who have Hepatitis C should consult their care teams regarding any concerns and before starting any treatment program.

Q: Are mouth ulcers a sign of cancer?
A: A mouth ulcer that does not clear up is sometimes a sign of oral cancer. However, very few mouth ulcers are a sign of cancer. Mouth ulcers associated with cancer are generally solitary rather than in clusters and appear without any apparent cause. If a mouth ulcer persists longer than three weeks, causes symptoms the person can’t handle like not being able to eat or drink sufficiently due to pain and/or does not respond to treatment, the affected person should see a doctor.

Other symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • White or red patches on the gums, cheek lining or tonsils that are persistent or don’t get better
  • Persistent mouth pain
  • A lump in the cheek
  • Persistent throat pain
  • The sensation of something stuck in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, moving the jaw or moving the tongue

Q: Can aphthous mouth ulcers occur on the gums?
A: Yes, mouth ulcers can affect the gums. They may also affect the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, and the inside of the lips.

Q: What are the differences between cold sores and canker sores?
A: Cold sores, also known as herpes labialis, are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus 1 or 2. Aphthous mouth ulcers are not caused by viruses. Cold sores primarily affect the corners of the mouth, the lips, the nostrils and the philtrum, the area between the upper lip and the nose.

Cold sores are extremely contagious. Aphthous mouth ulcers typically affect the inside of the mouth, do not affect the nose and are not contagious.

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Savage Love 

Hey, Faggot:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been subject to what I think is some type of oral herpes. Anytime I bite my lip hard enough to break the surface, and sometimes during periods of high stress, I develop mouth sores. These sores are like little craters and they last for about a week, maybe a week and a half. At first they are very painful but hard to see. Then they feel fine but look hideous: covered in white goo. They usually reside far enough inside my mouth that passersby or interlocutors cannot spy them. But sometimes not. Ugh.

What is this malady I suffer from? Can it be cured? Or can healing be speeded up somehow? Is this contagious? Can it be passed through kissing? Through oral sex (of either variety)? Would I be more susceptible to catching STDs during one of these bouts?

–Humorous Moniker

Hey, HM:

I am not a doc. I haven’t had a look in your mouth and wouldn’t want one–so take this advice with a grain of salt and consider having a real live doc check your mouth out sometime. Now, having laid down the above buttcover, it is my considered opinion that you are not suffering from oral herpes at all. What you got goin’ on is plain old everyday boring canker sores. Oral herpes lesions, sometimes called cold sores, usually appear outside the mouth on the outer edge of the lip, and they’re caused by that pesky herpes simplex type one virus. Oral herpes can spread from the mouth of an infected person to the genitals of an uninfected person, and it’s a big ugly bummer, though by no means the end of an afflicted person’s sex life–there are treatments nowadays that can keep herpes pretty much under control, lots of people have them, and they won’t kill ya. Canker sores–what you’re suffering from–appear inside the mouth, usually as a result of a break in the skin (like when you bite yourself). They can also be caused by an allergic reaction to something you ate, or from stress. They’re small but very painful, and a few days after appearing they’re usually covered or filled with the whitish gook you describe. The good news: Canker sores are not contagious–you can’t give them to your partners. The bad news: There is no cure, and, as you so astutely suspected, you are more susceptible to picking up STDs via, say, oral sex with an infected partner while you have a canker sore in your mouth. Luckily, canker sores are freakin’ painful and usually located on the parts of your mouth and lip lining that move across your teeth. Giving a blow job or eating pussy with a canker sore in your mouth will cause the sore to grind against your teeth–a painful but helpful wee reminder that you probably shouldn’t be engaging in oral sex at the moment.

Hey, Faggot:

Please print this because no one can give me straight answers. I have a problem with birth control. Normally I use rubbers when my girlfriend and I get at it. But I hate rubbers (so does she). She won’t take the pill, and female condoms and diaphragms are gross. What I want to know is how effective will it be if I just use spermicidal jelly and pull out before I come? And also, where can I get a vasectomy, how much will it cost, and how effective is it? And could I get my balls fixed later on in order to have kids? –Need Help

Hey, NH:

According to a Columbia University survey, 21 percent of women who used only spermicide to control pesky births “experienced accidental pregnancy.” As birth control, pairing spermicidal jelly and withdrawal isn’t all that wise, as loads of girls get knocked up after boys put it in “just a little.” You see, there’s a steady stream of active wee sperms trickling out of your boy-dick even before you have your boy-orgasm, and even the trace amount of sperm in your precome can be enough to knock someone up. If the girlfriend is OK with the concept of combining spermicidal jelly, withdrawal, and the occasional abortion, then by all means, proceed. But make damn sure she’s OK with abortion before you throw away those gross male and female condoms and diaphragms; otherwise it’s child support payments for you or a New Jersey prom night for her, if you know what I mean. As for vasectomy–now you’re talking birth control, son. It’ll cost you anywhere from $250 to $1,000–with family planning clinics costing much less than private docs. The procedure is relatively simple, takes about ten minutes, and no scalpel is involved. You’ll have to go in for presnip counseling and a follow-up spunk check to make sure you’re shooting blanks before you get the blow-ahead. The snip will not impact the quantity, taste, or viscosity of your spunk. Reversing a vasectomy later in life, however–getting your “balls fixed”–is a much more expensive proposition. It’ll cost you between $5,000 and $15,000, and it doesn’t always work. Unless you’re positive you don’t want to have your own wee bio kids, don’t get a vasectomy. (And don’t forget about STDs: Killer jellies, abortions, and vasectomies may protect you from parenthood, but they will not protect you from herpes, warts, syph, wee bugs, HIV, etc. Only abstinence, proper/obsessive use of latex, or getting way too hammered to get it up in the first place will protect you from all STDs–but be careful not to choke to death on your own vomit. Well, in all honesty, getting smashed won’t protect you from STDs, but it will make your date more beautiful, if only temporarily.)

Hey, Faggot:

I never thought I’d be writing you a letter, but when you quoted that woman in your column as saying the average female takes 45 minutes to an hour to come, I felt I had to write.

On a sampling of two–my girlfriend and I–I’m skeptical. For me, I’d say the average is 20-25 minutes (I’m assuming that woman meant during masturbation). My girlfriend wouldn’t weigh in with a time, but just rolled her eyes and said, “No way!” Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll make further inquiries on the subject. Am I really fast, which would be ironic because during my entire life I’ve been consistently criticized for being too slow, or is the 45-minute figure wrong? –Orgasmic 500

Hey, O5:

A lot of women wrote in to challenge the 45-minute rule, as laid down by guest expert Ellen Barnard of A Woman’s Touch in Madison, Wisconsin. I sent my research assistant, wee Kevin, out to confirm or debunk that estimate. Sadly, Kevin couldn’t find any competing figures, and I didn’t have the heart to make him do lab work on the subject. So I called Ellen to ask what the hell she thought she was talking about. “What I’m talking about is the full arousal cycle, from the first glimmering–from the moment the thought enters your head–to the final whatever,” not 45 minutes of direct and concentrated stimulation, “but the whole arousal cycle, from ‘Hey, baby, let’s go,’ to ‘Oh, baby, I’m coming.'”

Hmm. That may be so, but as “arousal cycles” are subjective and personal and can be influenced by all sorts of things–how turned on we are, how drunk we are, how much we’re being paid–we probably shouldn’t be slapping numbers on ’em. It takes the time it takes.

Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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