Cold sores or fever blisters, medically known as recurrent herpes labialis are caused by the herpes simplex virus.
They appear as small blister-like lesions around the mouth, on the lips, or edges of the lower lip. The fluid-filled blisters can even cluster around the lips.
Furthermore, they can recur, (mostly at the same site) when the virus lying dormant in the nerve cells is reactivated.
It is believed that cold sores are likely to recur in almost 14 to 40 percent of the individuals who are infected with the herpes simplex virus.
The condition is highly contagious and can even be accompanied by pain, itching, and burning sensation. Plus, before the onset of a cold sore outbreak, you are likely to feel a tingling sensation around the area where it is going to develop. This usually happens a day or two before the appearance of the sore.
Outbreaks of cold sores are often triggered by stress, overexposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays, menstruation, fever, fatigue, trauma to the skin, dental work, etc.
The virus causing cold sores (HSV-1) is quite common and most people acquire it early in the childhood when kissed by someone who is already infected
The virus generally spreads through coming in contact with a cold sore or even the saliva of an infected individual.
Cold sores are often confused with canker sores. However, unlike canker sores, cold sores do not develop in the soft tissue in the mouth.
How to Get Rid of Cold Sores
Most cold sore flare ups tend to crust over on their own within 7-10 days. Nonetheless, you can take advantage of the following 7 remedies to decrease the duration of the outbreaks and reduce the discomfort.
- Ice Treatment
- Tea Tree Oil
- Pure Vanilla extract
- Antiviral Creams
- Applying ice on the affected area is one of the most popular home treatments for cold sores. Thus, you can rub an ice cube on sore for a few minutes, several times in a day can reduce a cold sore. After using ice, dab a little petroleum jelly. Preferably, follow this remedy in the beginning itself to help delay the outbreak.
- Tea tree essential oil is another common cure for cold sores as it dries out the fluid-filled blisters. You need to apply the oil on your cold sore three times in a day. If you have sensitive skin, you can dilute it with an equal amount of water and then apply.
- Put a few drops of pure vanilla extract on a cotton ball and dab it on the affected area three to four times in a day to get rid of cold sores quickly. It also relieves the pain and inflammation caused by the condition.
- Licorice can be taken internally as well as applied topically to treat cold sores naturally because it has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, you can take licorice root tea or licorice capsules. For topical application, you may mix a tablespoon of licorice root powder and half a teaspoon of water. Leave this mixture on your skin for a few hours, or overnight. Besides, herbs like lemon balm and St. John’s wort, too, have anti-viral benefits.
- It is believed that the amino acid lysine helps heal cold sores as it represses the metabolism of another amino acid called arginine which facilitates the replication of the herpes simplex virus. Thus, you can take L-Lysine supplements (500mg two times in a day). You can increase the dosage when you feel an outbreak coming on. In addition you can take vitamin C, iron, and zinc supplements.
- Drinking whole milk and applying it on the affected area facilitates the process of healing a cold sore because it contain proteins that work as antibodies which fight the infection causing this problem. In addition, it contains lysine that suppresses the symptoms of cold sores. Moreover, applying cold milk on a cold sore helps soothe the pain and burning sensation.
- Over-the-counter antiviral creams can prove useful in reducing the duration of cold sore outbreaks. These creams, however, are most effective when applied as soon as the initial signs like tingling sensation are observed. You can apply a thick layer of an antiviral cream containing acyclovir or penciclovir up to five times in a day. Follow the treatment for four to five days.
Tips to Prevent Cold Sores
- A weakened immune system tends to increase the chances of developing recurrent cold sore outbreaks and further complications. Hence, strive to strengthen your immune system.
- Avoid sharing personal belongings like towels, razors, lip balms, even food items, beverages and eating utensils with an infected individual with an active lesion.
- Stress is the most common trigger for cold sore flare up. So, it is suggested to keep your stress levels down. You can try practicing deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
- As already mentioned, amino acid arginine is believed to promote cold sores whereas lysine tends to regulate the uptake of arginine. Thus, consider taking a diet which is high in lysine and low in arginine. Thus, include more milk, cheese, beans, avocados, brewer’s yeast, chicken, fish, etc. in your diet and steer clear of coffee, chocolates, gelatin candies, peanuts, pecans, and so forth.
- Avoid prolonged sun exposure, particularly on the lips. Make sure you wear a lipstick or lip balm containing sunscreen.
Dos and Don’ts
|Do start the treatment for a cold sore as soon as you experience the initial signs of an outbreak.
||Do not touch a cold sore again and again. When you do touch the sore, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly.
|Do avoid direct contact with cold sores.
||Do not pick or pop your cold sores.
|Do visit your doctor if the condition does not subside within two weeks.
||Do not put makeup on a cold sore as it can irritate the fluid-filled blister.