Diagnosis of Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Type 1)
En Español (Spanish Version)

Cold sores have very recognizable features. They are most often diagnosed by physical exam and by your medical history. If your doctor is not sure, a sample of the fluid or tissue from the blister may be taken. A blood sample may also be taken for testing.

Testing may include any of the following:

  • Viral culture—A sample of the fluid from the cold sore blisters is taken with a cotton swab. This is done as soon as possible after an outbreak begins. The virus is then grown in the laboratory. This test is very accurate if the sample is taken while there are still clear blisters.
  • Tzanck test—The cold sore is lightly scraped to collect cells onto a glass slide. These cells are then examined under a microscope. This test is quick, but not as accurate.
  • Tests to detect the presence of antibodies in your blood. These particular antibodies are created by your body to fight herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections. This test may be done when no sores are present.



References:
Cold sores. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/common/cold_sores.html. Updated October 2010. Accessed March 30, 2013.

Herpes labialis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 27, 2011. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Herpes simplex: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/herpes-simplex/diagnosis-treatment/herpes-simplex-diagnosis-treatment-and-outcome. Accessed March 20, 2012.

Last Reviewed March 2014



Health Information Library content is provided by EBSCO Publishing, fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

 

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

 

To send comments or feedback to EBSCO's Editorial Team regarding the content please e-mail healthlibrarysupport@ebscohost.com.