What’s The Difference Between A Cold Sore & A Canker Sore?

Yikes! What is that? | Source: ShutterStock

Yikes! What is that? | Source: ShutterStock

How can I tell the difference between a cold sore and a canker sore?

ChickRx expert Evelyn Resh, Certified Sexuality Counselor and Nurse Midwife, says:

This is a great and important question and I’m sure a lot of people wonder this. So, I’m really glad you asked.

Both a cold sore and a canker sore appear somewhere in or on the oral cavity, which means your mouth. The difference is that a cold sore is caused by the oral herpes virus and a canker sore is caused by other viral infections.

Some differences are that canker sores are generally on your tongue, while cold sores are most often on the lips, side of the mouth, or even immediately beneath the nostrils. Canker sores are very small and very tender and are present for only a few days. Cold sores can last ten days or longer. Canker sores are super sensitive to both cold and hot things and they’re even sensitive to salty sweet foods.

Also interestingly, many people contract oral herpes before the age of five. This typically happens because they have either been kissed on the face or mouth by an adult who has a cold sore and doesn’t realize how contagious it is or from kissing a classmate or sharing food with a friend who has a sore.

If you have oral herpes, it’s critical to remember that unless you are completely free of sores–and I mean completely free, not even a scab on your mouth–don’t kiss a sex partner’s mouth or genitals. You could spread the virus to them. Wait until the sore is completely gone, scab and all, before resuming intimate contact.

There is treatment for herpes that can reduce transmission and shorten the time of the outbreak. These are viral-suppressing drugs that are helpful, especially for people with frequent outbreaks.

I hope the above was helpful. But, if you’re still wondering about your mouth sore, I’d say go to a doctor for an official diagnosis and treatment.

Got more questions? Post them in the comments below or head on over to ChickRx.com.

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  • Katie

    I always thought my canker sores were cold sores. I get canker sores when I accidently bite my lip inside.