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Difference Between Cold and Canker Sores and How to Treat Them

Your mouth is one of the most important parts of your body. This is the part exhibited to the people looking at you. Again this is the part that is required for various activities like talking, eating, drinking and so on. Sores inside your mouth or around your lips can be a painful affair, but the ones that are visible to others are all the more irritating since they affect your appearance and can leave an unforgiving scab on your skin. Two of the most common forms of sores that appear on or inside your mouth are those of cold sores and canker sores. People often happen to confuse both the conditions but they are quite different in terms of the locations they affect, the trigger factors that cause them, and the time that is taken to heal them. In this discussion, we will discuss about cold and canker sores and their differences and how to treat them.

Difference Between Cold and Canker Sores

Difference Between Cold and Canker Sores

Difference Between Cold and Canker Sores With Regards to What it is

Cold Sores

Herpes labialis is commonly known as cold sores. As the name suggests, cold sores often occurs due to fevers and catching a cold 1. However, the idea that you can develop these sores only during the winter time is a wrong notion. These sores can develop at any point of the year. Cold sores are also known as fever blisters and are fluid filled small sores that often appear in a cluster. These blisters appear on top of the skin and are visible to the people looking at you. The most common areas that have these sores appear are those of your lips, nose and around your mouth 1. Just before the sore occurs you can feel a tingling sensation. The actual sores can occur even after a span of 48 hours. Cold sores take a time of about a couple of weeks to get cured and can leave marks behind them. The sores ooze a light fluid that can form a crust like layer on top of the blisters.

Canker Sores

Aphthous stomatitis is commonly known as canker sores. These are also called mouth ulcers. Canker sores are small lesions that appear on the tissues of your mouth 1.

These generally appear in the regions of your gums and are not contagious in their nature. These canker sores heal on their own and are not that much of a problem. However, if you have these sores for a very long duration then you need to see a doctor without any further delay. These canker sores can be of three types predominantly. They can be the minor canker sores, the major canker sores, and the herpetiform canker sores. The first two types are the common forms of canker sores.

The third type of canker sore develops at a later stage of life and can be the size of pinpoints. The third type can occur in clusters. Their numbers can range from ten to a hundred. Sometimes all of them merge to form a single large lesion. Signs and symptoms of these canker sores can be quite misleading and people often mistaken them for cold sores 1. They can appear in the region of the inner cheek, under the tongue and also on the gum baseline, they are often oval or circular in shape. They can often have a red border. They are not really painful but can yet pose problems while talking and eating.

Difference Between Cold and Canker Sores With Regards to Causes

Causes of Cold Sores

The herpes Simples Virus is the main reasons that cause cold sores. HSV-1 and HSV-2 are the two types of viruses that affect the body and causes cold sores. Cold sores can be quite contagious especially if the sores are open. There are other factors that can also add to this condition such as fatigue, stress, hormonal changes and also hard wind and sunlight. These are the outcome of common viral attacks and can be accompanied by headache and inflammation of the lymph. This is a common condition and can happen throughout your life.

Causes of Canker Sores

The cause of these canker sores can be quite frustrating. No specific reason has been found yet. However, there can be multiple reasons such as poor oral hygiene, allergic reactions, smallmouth injuries inside the mouth, sensitivity to different food elements and also emotional or hormonal stress.

How to Treat Cold and Canker Sores?

Treatment for Cold Sores:

The healing process for cold sores can be a lengthy one and hence must be taken easy and handled with the patience. The following are some of the common points to be remembered during this process:

  • No Touching: Touching and squeezing your cold sores should be avoided as it can mess up the place and the sores can take a longer time to get healed. You can use ice cubes that can ease the pain and the topical swelling.
  • Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera extracts can work very well in such places. You can also use Licorice extract for topical application.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E can be really beneficial for skin cell production and also boosts the production of white blood cells. They fight viral infections.
  • No Cosmetics: The market can have a number of products of cosmetics that can say that they are magic for the condition but please abstain their use.

Treatment for Canker Sores:

If you have canker sores, it is the time when you need to eat less spicy food. This can otherwise trigger the pain to a greater extent. Your diet must be rich in phytonutrients that help boost the immune system. Also eat food that is rich in Vitamin A, E, D and K22. This type of diet will help your body both against canker sores and also cold sores. You must practice proper mouth hygiene and brush your mouth twice a day. However, be gentle while brushing so that you do not cause any more injuries. Try to keep your stress level as low as possible and get as much sleep as possible.


The symptoms of canker sores and that of cold sores are quite different. In order to give the best possible treatment for the condition first diagnosing the problem properly is important. This is how you can handle the situation well. However, both these conditions indicate a low immune system in your body big time. This is the time when you must give adequate attention to the diet you are eating and the amount of sleep that you are having. It is important that you change your lifestyle if any of the sore problems persist for a longer duration than usual.


  1. University Health Service. (n.d.). “Cold and Canker Sores”. The University of Michigan. Retrieved from https://www.uhs.umich.edu/coldcankersores
  2. Sissons, C. (November, 2017). “Ten Remedies for Canker Sores”. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320015.php
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 27, 2020

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