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How to Distinguish Between Cuts and Cold Sores

It can be difficult to determine the cause of irritated patches of skin on the face. However, cold sores and cuts do have several features that should enable most people to distinguish between the two skin problems. If you remain unsure of what has caused a lesion on your face, consult a doctor so that appropriate treatment techniques can be initiated.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Look for the indications of a cut. Cuts are caused by trauma to the skin with a sharp object. A straight or nearly straight line where the edge of the sharp object contacted the skin should be visible once bleeding has stopped. If such a line is present, it is likely that you have cut your skin and do not have a cold sore.

How to Tell If You Have a Wasp Bite or Sting

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Check for the symptoms of a cold sore 1. These include a burning, itching or tingling feeling around the lips or nearby parts of your face followed by the appearance of a red rash. On top of the red rash, a fluid-filled blister will appear. According to the Mayo Clinic, this blister will break open, releasing its fluid (which may include blood). It will start to heal within about a week after it develops.

Consider the location of the wound. If it is inside your mouth, it is unlikely to be a cold sore; cold sores only rarely occur inside the mouth. If the affected area is inside your mouth, it may be a cut, canker sore or other condition. A doctor may be better equipped to examine affected areas of skin within the mouth itself.


Whether it is a cut or cold sore, do not pick at the area. This can cause it to become infected and, in the case of cold sores, can spread the virus that causes the condition. Do not begin to treat a facial sore or other condition without first determining its cause. This may slow down healing and potentially cause further damage.