Cold sores (or fever blisters) are itchy, painful and unsightly -3 out of 10 people get them on a regular basis but nobody talks about them!
Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus.
There are two kinds of herpes infection –HSV1 which most often causes cold sores on the lips; HSV2 usually causes infection in the genital area and is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Note: Cold sores (HSV1) can be spread to the genital area and genital herpes (HSV2) can be spread to the mouth.
You can get the infection from kissing someone with the virus or eating/drinking after someone who is infected. Many parents pass the virus to their children. Once you have the infection, you can not be healed -but you can prevent and treat cold sores.
Cold sores (fever blisters) usually start as a small sore on the lip which slowly grows larger and looks like a blister. The “blisters” will break open and eventually scab over and fall off. During this time, you can pass the virus to others and spread it to other areas of the lip and body.
The good news is that they will usually clear up within a few days to two weeks.
The bad news is that they can be painful, unattractive and can take TWO weeks to clear up!
You should start treatment as soon as you know a cold sore is coming (either from itchy/tingling feeling or seeing the small sore).
To treat cold sores:
1. Apply ice for a 3 minutes 4 times an hour for 2 hours.
2. Start taking Motrin (ibuprofen) – 1 to 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours or Tylenol Extra Strength (acetaminophen) – 1 tablet every 4 hours.
3. Avoid acidic foods (pizza, orange juice) -you’ll know it is bad because it will most likely HURT.
4. Rinse with warm water mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda
5. Apply Abreva cream (available OTC at the pharmacy) -apply 5 times a day for up to 10 days. Abreva is the only OTC medication proven to decrease symptoms and aids in healing.
6. If the cold sore is painful –apply Anbesol or Orajel over the Abreva to help numb the area.
7. Take a prescription drug like acyclovir or Valtrex. These meds are by prescription only, so talk to your physician about them. The recommended doses are…
* Valtrex (valacyclovir) – Take 2 Valtrex 1,000 mg tablets twice daily for day 1 then take 1 Valtrex 1,000mg tablet twice a day on day 2.
* Zovirax (acyclovir) -Take acyclovir 400mg tablet five times a day
* Both medications work -Valtrex is taken less often and may be more convenient but acyclovir comes in a generic and can be less expensive.
8. You can also use some natural supplements:
* Lysine -500mg to 1,000mg/day for 5 to 10 days
* Vitamin C -100 to 500mg/day for 5 to 10 days
* Lemon balm -apply 2 to 4 times a day for 5 days
To prevent future outbreaks of cold sores:
1. Stress, sun and illness can lead to an outbreak of cold sores -so avoid when at all possible!
2. Avoid drinking after, using utensils or kissing anyone with an active infection
3. Prescription drugs…
* Zovirax (acyclovir) -Take 200mg three to five times daily
* Valtrex (valacyclovir) – Take 500mg one time daily
So, now you know…and knowing is half the battle!