These small (and yes occasionally huge) blisters are not just embarrassing, they’re deeply painful. They throb, they itch, they weep. And because they’re caught through physical contact they also seem to have a shameful connotation of sorts.
Bottom line - nobody wants one.
Given that, we’re bringing you the best-ever tips on how to prevent a cold sore episode and treating one if the inevitable occurs.
First, a few facts on cold sores themselves.
According to the Mayo Clinic cold sores are common. You’ll know if you have ever had one that the sores are tiny, fluid-filled blisters which often develop on and around your lips.
These blisters tend to be grouped together in patches. After the blisters break, a crust forms over the resulting sore.
Yes. They’re disgusting.
The sores spread from person to person by close contact such as kissing. They can also be transferred by the sharing of utensils and cups or touch.
They're caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). This is closely related to the one that causes genital herpes (HSV-2) but it is NOT the same. However, both of these viruses can affect your mouth or genitals and can be spread by oral sex.
You can prevent catching the virus by taking great care around those who clearly have it. Don’t share razors, towels, face cloths and so on and do not drink from the same cups or use the same utensils.
If you do have the virus then it’s a good idea to take care of your health in general. This means eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and ensuring you sleep eight hours a night.
Easing your stress levels through yoga or a mindfulness practise such as meditation will also help as stress will lower your immune system which will make you more prone to breakouts. Always wear sunscreen if you’re outdoors and also a barrier cream if you’re in windy conditions. Both sun and wind cause cause blisters to appear.
Beauty treatments such as laser can also cause an outbreak so if you’re undergoing anything of the sort let your skincare therapist know beforehand.
If you have a breakout there are anti-viral creams you can purchase at the pharmacy. There are no-name brands of traditional creams. These are less expensive and a pharmacist may recommend one of these to you.
They’re exactly the same in terms of ingredients but textures etc may differ so choose carefully.
You can also ask your pharmacist for an over-the-counter one-off dose of medication that will speed up the healing process. And if you take this early enough - the blisters may never become fully visible.
If you are suffering from outbreaks frequently, check in with your GP and ask if it might be beneficial to take an anti-viral medication on a semi-permanent basis.
Oral antiviral medicines available in Australia for the treatment of cold sores include: famciclovir tablets (brand names include Ezovir, Ezovir Cold Sore Relief, Famvir, Famvir for Cold Sores); and valaciclovir tablets (brand names Valtrex, Zelitrex).
Don’t wait however. Treatment with antiviral tablets should be started within 48 hours of symptoms appearing. Leave it any longer and they likely won’t make much of a difference.
One last thing - try not to feel too concerned. Roughly 90 per cent of adults are said to have the virus whether they’ve experienced an outbreak or not so you’re definitely not alone.
Other Tips To Try
Lysine supplements are also shown to decrease and possibly even prevent outbreaks. These are available in supermarkets and at the pharmacy too.
Don’t pick, poke or lick cold sore blisters if you can help it.
Wash your hands often.
Avoid citric foods such as grapefruit and lemons.
Wrap an ice block in a clean cloth and hold to the blistered area. This will ease the pain and possibly also speed healing.
Consider an LED light therapy treatment at a cosmetic doctor’s clinic. LED light therapy penetrates deep into cells heightening their internal functions, stimulating blood flow. This is said to boost healing time.