How to Tell a Cold Sore From a Pimple

Is it a pimple or a cold sore?

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That red, sore spot on your face -- is it a pimple or a cold sore? When it is just starting, you might not know for sure whether you're getting a pimple or a cold sore because they look similar. Hang in there and it will soon become obvious what you're dealing with. Once you know which it is, you'll be able to rescue your face and make it clear again.


Where is it? Cold sores tend to pop up only around your mouth, while pimples can break out anywhere. If it's not by your mouth, it's probably a pimple. If it's by your mouth, it could be either.


Does it itch? Sometimes cold sores itch or tingle when they are first developing. A pimple doesn't itch.


How much does it hurt? Both cold sores and pimples can be pretty painful. If your pimple is the cystic variety that swells beneath the skin, these are particularly painful. A common pimple won't hurt that much. Cold sores can be particularly painful during the blister and oozing stage.


Watch how it develops. If it's a pimple, it will probably erupt, dry up and go away within three or four days. If it's a cold sore, it will probably erupt, fester, blister up, pop, ooze and then scab over -- sometimes repeatedly. This can be really painful and can take up to a week.


Think about what's going on in your life. If your period is coming, pimples often erupt because your face is oilier. If you're stressed out or getting sick, cold sores often show up at the same time.


If you think you have a cold sore, be careful not to pass it on to anyone else. Cold sores are contagious, but pimples are not.

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