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Sores on Lips and Mouth Causes, Cold Sores, Canker Sores and Treatments


Sores on lips have become common external ailments in the recent days. You may have come across people with mouth sores in common soft tissues around the mouth such as lips, tongue, cheeks and gums. In other instances, sores may occur both on the roof and the floor of your mouth. While sores on lips are associated with common cold, others may be from various medical conditions, including dry lips.

cold sores on the upper lip - herpes virus
Cold sores on the upper lip

Sores on lips and mouth

In most cases, sores on lips also affect the mouth. However, this may not be the case in all instances. Some medical conditions such as cancer, common cold, canker, gingivostomatitis and herpes among other conditions cause both mouth and lip sores. In this context, the medication applied to treat mouth sores may as well be used to treat sores on the lips.


Sores on lips, and at times in the mouth are triggered by many factors such as:

  • Anemia
  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Cankers
  • Cold
  • Celiac disease
  • Chickenpox
  • Food allergies
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Herpes
  • Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease
  • Leukemia
  • Allergy to medications
  • Oral thrush
  • Radiation/chemotherapy

These are the common factors that trigger the emergence of sores on lips. However, every human body is unique, and sores on lips may be triggered by other factors that are not part of this list.

Cold sores

Sores on lips are mainly cold sores. Cold sores are also commonly known as fever blisters. Cold sores appear as a group of very small blisters that form around the mouth. The sores make the skin around the lips to appear swollen and red. The sores contain a clear fluid that may flow out if the sores are open.

Cold sore triggers

Sores on lips as a result to cold are mainly associated with herpes simplex virus. The two herpes simplex viruses are responsible for causing sores in the mouth, lips and also in the genitals. These viruses are spread to the lips when a person touches an infected sore. They can also be spread through kissing or through sharing utensils.

Cold sore symptoms

Cold sores are manifested through some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain around the mouth and the lips. (primary symptom)
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever

Cold sore stages

Cold sores become significant lip sores after undergoing the following stages:

  • Stage one- characterized by recurrent tingling and itching.
  • Stage two- blisters appear on the lips
  • Stage 3- blisters bursts and ooze their fluid. A sore come out of the blister.
  • Stage 4- the sores dry within a few days leaving behind an itchy and cracking skin.
  • Stage 5- the sore heals after the scab falls off.

Effects of sores on lips/ cold sores

Before the onset of sores on lips, many symptoms precede. Some of these symptoms come along with various complications. These complications are more severe in children than in adults. Complexity of the symptoms depends on the general health of the victim. For example, victims with health conditions such as cancer, AIDS and eczema. The common complications that are associated with sores on lips include:

  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Persistent fever
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Irritated eyes

Are cold sores contagious?

Yes, cold sores are communicable through various practices such as:

  • touching an infected person
  • kissing and during sex
  • sharing of creams and lipsticks

Canker sores on lip

Besides cold sores, sores on lips can also be evident in the form of canker sores. Like cold sores, canker sores are small ulcers that are commonly found in the mouth, throat, lips and the tongues.

Canker sores are caused by various factors such as spicy foods, stress, and injury in the mouth, hormones, acidic food, vitamin deficiencies and autoimmune disorders. These sores heal on their own a few days after occurrence. However, people with canker sores may take pain relievers to relieve pain. In other instances, victims may use mouthwashes and tropical medications to facilitate fast healing.

Canker sores causes

Canker sores, both on the lips and the mouth, are attributed to the following factors:

  • Use of acidic toothpaste and mouthwashes.
  • Allergy to various foodstuffs.
  • Injuries caused by vigorous brushing
  • Eating acidic foods.
  • Emotional stress.
  • Diets low in zinc, iron and certain vitamins
  • Smoking
  • Oral cancer
  • Conditions that lower the body immunity.
  • Intake of certain drugs
Canker sores on inner upper lip - white sores on inner lip
Canker sores on upper inner lip


Most sores on the lips heal on their own within seven days. However, various precautions can be applied to manage and the sores and relieve pain. These sore management practices include:

  • Placing a wet piece of cloth on the sore to reduce the itching and the swelling. This can be done a few times in day.
  • One can also take some painkillers to help in relieving pain. The common painkillers that can be considered include acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • You can also consider using mouthwash on a daily basis. This would significantly serve as an antibiotic. Killing disease-causing germs would facilitate healing.
  • One should also avoid acidic foodstuffs as they are likely to worsen the sores.
  • Nonprescription ointments have also been known to play a significant role healing sores on lips. Some ointments such as zilactin and abreva have been known facilitate fast healing.

What’s good for fever blisters on the lip?

Other natural remedies have been known to manage sores on lips. These natural remedies work in instances where topical treatments and oils can’t work due to allergic reactions. Some of the popular natural remedies include:

  • Use of ice on a piece of cloth to reduce inflammation.
  • Use of L-lysine amino acid to facilitate fast healing.
  • You can also consider using lemon balm.
  • Oregano oil has also been known kill herpes virus.
  • Use of zinc therapy helps the wounds to heal faster.
  • Some therapists also recommend the use of tea tree oil since it acts as an effective antiviral remedy.
  • You can also use apple cider vinegar since it is known to have some essential antifungal properties.

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