What is it?
Cold sores are small blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth. They are caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus and usually clear up without treatment within 7 to 10 days.
You may not have any symptoms when you first become infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1. An outbreak of cold sores may happen some time later.
Cold sores often start with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth. Small fluid-filled sores then appear, usually on the edges of the lower lip.
You’re at risk of getting a cold sore if you come in contact with the fluid of a cold sore through kissing, sharing foods or drinks, or sharing personal care items such as toothbrushes and razors. If you come in contact with the saliva of someone who has the virus, you can get the virus, even if there are no visible blisters.
What are the symptoms?
Any one or more of the following symptom occur during the outbreak: * Fever * Muscle aches * Swollen lymph nodes A cold sore goes through five stages: Stage one: Tingling and itching occurs about 24 hours before blisters erupt. Stage two: Fluid-filled blisters appear. Stage three: The blisters burst, ooze, and form painful sores. Stage four: The sores dry out and scab over causing itching and cracking. Stage five: The scab falls off and the cold sore heals.
- Ice helps reduce the swelling, redness, and pain caused by a cold sore. Wrap an ice cube in a clean washcloth and place it over your cold sore for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this every three to four hours.
- Cut a garlic clove into halves, crush one-half and apply it on the affected area. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat three to five times a day.
- Sunscreen not only protects your lips while the cold sore is healing, but it can also reduce future outbreaks when worn daily on the lips. Use Sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and apply it whenever you expect to be in the sun
- Hydrogen peroxide is great for disinfecting and drying up the sore. Dip a cotton ball or cotton swab in 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, apply it on the cold sore and leave it on for a few minutes. Repeat this every few hours.
- Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, helps to reduce the redness and swelling associated with a blister. Symptoms such as pain and scabbing do not improve with lemon balm. A compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea) may provide similar benefits. Lemon balm may also help protect against future outbreaks.
- Mix one tablespoon of licorice root powder and one-half teaspoon of water. Apply it on your cold sore using a cotton swab or your fingertip (make sure your hands are clean), and leave it on for a few hours. Do this several times a day. You can also have licorice root tea or supplements.
- Take 1,000 to 1,500 mg L-Lysine supplements daily to help keep the herpes virus dormant. During an outbreak, take 1,000 mg three times a day. You can also use creams, but oral lysine is considered more effective. Include meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, soybeans, and other protein-rich foods in your diet as they are good sources of lysine.
- Soak a cotton ball in cold, whole milk. Apply it on the affected area and leave it on for about 10 minutes. Repeat this once or twice a day.
- Dab Echinacea liquid extract on the affected area. You can also drink Echinacea tea, or take it in the form of tincture or capsules.
- Dilute tea tree oil by adding three parts of water to one part of tea tree oil. Dip a cotton ball in the oil and apply it on your cold sore three times a day. Alternatively, you can combine tea tree oil with an equal amount of olive oil and a little eucalyptus oil. Apply it two to three times a day.
- Aloe vera gel is widely available. Applying it topically can aid in soothing the skin when a cold sore breaks out. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful.
- Don’t kiss babies or anyone if you have a cold sore. It can lead to neonatal herpes, which is very dangerous to newborn babies.
- Don’t eat acidic or salty food
- Don’t touch your cold sore (apart from applying cream)
- Don’t rub cream into the cold sore – dab it on instead
- Don’t share anything that comes into contact with a cold sore (such as cold sore creams, cutlery or lipstick)
- Don’t have oral sex until your cold sore completely heals – the cold sore virus also causes genital herpes
Things to watch out for
See your GP who may prescribe antiviral tablets if your cold sores are very large, painful or keep coming back. Newborn babies, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system may be referred to hospital for advice or treatment