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Oral Herpes

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Oral Herpes Symptoms

Incubation period: For oral herpes, the amount of time between contact with the virus and the appearance of symptoms, the incubation period, is 2-12 days. Most people average about 4 days.

  • Duration of illness: Signs and symptoms will last 2-3 weeks. Fever, tiredness, muscle aches, and irritability may occur.
    • Pain, burning, tingling, or itching occurs at the infection site before the sores appear. Then clusters of blisters erupt. These blisters break down rapidly and, when seen, appear as tiny, shallow, gray ulcers on a red base. A few days later, they become crusted or scabbed and appear drier and more yellow
    • Oral sores: The most intense pain caused by these sores occurs at the onset and make eating and drinking difficult.
      • The sores may occur on the lips, the gums, the front of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the throat, and the roof of the mouth.
      • They may also extend down the chin and neck.
      • The gums may become mildly swollen and red and may bleed.
      • Neck lymph nodes often swell and become painful.
      • In people in their teens and 20s, herpes may cause a painful throat with shallow ulcers and a grayish coating on the tonsils.

When to Seek Medical Care

When to call the doctor

  • Because the sores are painful, you may have difficulty eating or drinking. To prevent dehydration, call your doctor as soon as you cannot eat or drink.
  • Call your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms, which suggest dehydration, occur:
    • A decrease in urination (fewer wet diapers in infants)
    • Drowsiness
    • Irritability
    • Dry mouth
  • Call your doctor if you or your children are not sure what the sores are.
  • If your child is younger than 6 weeks, notify your doctor when sores appear. Severe infection or disease complications occur more commonly in infants. For instance, besides affecting the mouth, the herpes simplex virus may go to the brain and produce damage.
  • People whose immune systems are weakened should also call their doctor when sores appear. Your immune system protects you from infection or fights infection. If your system is weakened, you are more likely to have severe infection or disease complication.

When to go to the hospital

Signs and symptoms of dehydration may warrant going to a hospital's emergency department.

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