Herpes in the mouth - triggers and treatment

Herpes in the mouth - triggers and treatment

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Colloquially, the term "herpes" is mostly used, whereby numerous viruses can hide behind it. Herpes simplex virus type I is usually referred to as herpes in the mouth. The infection rate in Germany is very high, around 85 to 90 percent, but symptoms only show up in around 20 to 40 percent of the population.

Herpes simplex viruses

Two related viruses exist. Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is known as an oral strain, which manifests itself primarily with blisters on the lip, but also on the oral mucosa. HSV-2, however, spreads mainly in the genital area. The HSV-1 is responsible for herpes in the mouth.

Infection with the herpes simplex virus I

Infection with the herpes simplex virus I leads to the so-called herpes labialis, which primarily affects the lip region. But this can also spread inside the mouth, in the oral mucosa.

The primary infection usually occurs before the age of five, and this is often absolutely symptom-free. The transmission takes place through close physical contact. For example, if the parents have an acute herpes virus infection in the mouth or lip area, kiss the child or even lick the pacifier.

The incubation period for an infection with the herpes simplex virus I is between three and nine days, but may also last for six weeks. The first infection in children rarely manifests itself in the form of a so-called mouth rot (stomatitis aphtosa, stomatitis herpetica, gingivostomatitis herpetica). In addition to the painful inflammation of the oral mucosa, the little patients can also suffer from a general feeling of sickness, exhaustion and high fever.

After the first contact with the pathogen, it stays in the body for a lifetime. He then does not stay in the mucous membrane cells in which he prefers to spread, but looks for other cells in the area of ​​the trigeminal nerve (5th cranial nerve). There are many so-called ganglia (nerve cell nodes) in which the herpes viruses nest, but without multiplying here. This is called the latency phase (inactive phase).

Causes of herpes in the mouth

Herpes in the mouth is highly contagious. The virus is either transmitted by droplet infection, for example when sneezing and coughing, or by direct contact when kissing. Drinking together from the same glass can also lead to infection. If the body came into contact with the virus at a very young age, it can be brought back to life at any time.

The virus becomes active

After times of twilight sleep, the herpes viruses can become active again. This happens, for example, through intensive sun exposure, fever, stress, massive physical stress, hormonal changes or a weakened immune system.

Disgust, fright or fear can also trigger herpes in the mouth. The viruses migrate from the neurons via the axons back to the “surrounding area” and trigger the symptoms there. These are expressed as blisters on the lip or on the oral mucosa. Since herpes often occurs in connection with febrile illnesses, these are popularly called "cold sores".

Symptoms of herpes in the mouth

With herpes in the mouth, painful canker sores develop on the oral mucosa, which are filled with a liquid that is highly contagious. These foci can ulcerate (form ulcers) and, above all, can seriously impair drinking and eating. The painful inflammation lasts between three and seven days, depending on the severity. In order for the herpes blisters to heal as quickly as possible, treatment should be given at the first signs.
[GList slug = ”10 home remedies for herpes”]

Prevent herpes

The most important thing to prevent cold sores is an intact immune system. This includes a healthy, vitamin-rich diet, enough exercise in the fresh air and enough sleep. The body may also need additional vitamins in the form of a nutritional supplement. Relaxation exercises help to ensure that stress does not get out of hand. If the partner is currently suffering from herpes, it should not be drunk from the same glass.

Thorough oral hygiene is important. This includes brushing your teeth, at least twice a day, and rinsing your mouth after meals. Oil pulling and tongue scraping are now known from Indian teaching, Ayurveda. When pulling oil, about a teaspoonful of good, cold-pressed sesame or sunflower oil is chewed in the mouth for several minutes. Then the whole thing has to be spit out. The oil absorbs bacteria and viruses. Scraping the tongue after brushing the teeth rounds off the oral hygiene.

Herpes can also affect other parts of the body

The HSV-1 can also be noticed on the nose, eyelid, cheeks and other parts of the body. This happens when the viruses are carried over, for example when rubbing the contents of the lip into the nasal region.

Beware of pregnancy

If a pregnant woman has herpes at the time of birth, it is essential that she refrain from kissing the baby until the inflammation has subsided. Avoid licking the pacifier.

Special susceptibility to herpes

Diabetes is particularly susceptible to herpes infections and generally to all inflammations of the mucous membranes. Diabetics not only have problems with their metabolism, but mostly also a weakened immune system. Diabetics often suffer from a particularly dry oral mucosa, which makes inflammation even easier.

Herpes therapy and home remedies

An unstable immune system is often responsible for the outbreak of herpes disease or the infection. The greatest attention should therefore be paid to this. Measures that strengthen the immune system are therefore of particular importance. A healthy diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in animals is the basis for a healthy immune system.

Taking an Echinacea preparation (coneflower) stimulates the immune system. The taiga root is also worth mentioning here. This is also known as Eleutherococcus or Siberian Ginseng. The plant is said to have an antiviral effect. It also supports the body in dealing better with stress.

A proven home remedy for herpes is lemon balm, which is administered both internally and externally, for dabbing the inflamed areas. An old remedy - rediscovered - is myrrh. As a tincture, applied to the cold sores in the mouth, it can serve well.

In the case of massive infestation, conventional medicine prescribes a virostatic. A wide variety of mouthwash solutions are also used. Gels, which mostly contain a local anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine), take the pain for a certain time. There are also ointments that form a kind of film so that the inflamed area is somewhat protected, which can be particularly useful when eating.

Affected people should not share cutlery and glasses with other people as long as the herpes virus is active. This is especially important when dealing with infants or young children. (sw)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Kenneth M. Kaye: Herpes Simplex Virus Infections (HSV), MSD Manual, (accessed September 4, 2019), MSD
  • Oliver Gries, Thomas Ly: Infectology - Compendium of Human Pathogenic Infectious Diseases and Pathogens, Springer Verlag, 1 edition, 2019
  • Norbert Suttorp: Infectious Diseases, Thieme Verlag, 1st edition, 2003
  • G. Gross: Herpes simplex virus infections, dermatologist (2004) 55: 818, (accessed on September 4, 2019), doi

ICD codes for this disease: B00, P35.2ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

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