March 24, 2017

Ask the Doctor – What’s the Difference Between a Cold Sore and a Canker Sore?

Steve North, MD, MPH, family and adolescent medicine physician with Mission Community Primary Care – Spruce Pine, addresses health and wellness questions for you and your children heading into the spring months.

Q: What’s the difference between a cold sore and a canker sore?

A: Cold sores generally occur along the curve of the lip and border of the mouth. These are typically caused by the herpes virus. They can be itchy and painful. Over-the-counter medicines can ease the burning and pain. These sores spread to others via saliva, so avoid kissing and sharing kitchen utensils and drinking glasses.

Canker sores occur inside the mouth and are generally characterized by an ulceration. Canker sores generally resolve within seven to fourteen days. Both cold sores and canker sores tend to develop at times of stress and are more likely to present if one is not eating a healthy diet.


Dr. North sees patients at Mission Community Primary Care – Spruce Pine. To schedule an appointment, call (828) 765-5672.