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Despite their name, cold sores or fever blisters are not caused by common cold.
These annoying, itchy, painful, blistery lesions on your lips are a fact of life for many people around the globe.
In this post we will go through their symptoms, causes, and what can you do to prevent them from ruining your day.
What are the causes of cold sores?
Cold sores are caused by a very common virus called herpes simplex virus, or HSV.
There are two types of HSV that can cause fever blisters or cold sores: HSV type 1 and HSV type 2. Cold sores or herpes labialis are more commonly caused by HSV type 1.
Most people get their fist exposure to the virus in their early childhood through contact with family members or daycare children who carry the virus.
Bear in mind that there’s no definite cure that allows you to get rid of herpes simplex for good.
Once you get infected with it, it’s always there in your system.
It is thought that after the primary infection, the virus remains latent in our trigeminal ganglion.
Recurrence of an outbreak of the viral infection may happens as a result to exposure to bright sunlight, flu, and fatigue.
Here are the symptoms of cold sores
HSV type 1 infection usually causes a mild, self-limiting painful blistering around the mouth that is more commonly known as cold sores.
Cold sores or fever blisters can present themselves anywhere on the human body.
But they are most likely to appear on the outside of your mouth and lips.
Cold sores start with a tingling sensation, then burning sensation begins to surface.
Then finally the outbreak takes place as a painful red blister.
After a few days the blister breaks open oozing the fluid out and crusting takes place. A yellow crust keeps building up and falling off.
How Are Cold Sores Diagnosed?
To see if you have the herpes simplex virus (HSV) or not, your dentist or medical doctor will simply examine the cold sore or may take a swab from it.
Blood tests for HSV antibodies are also beneficial. A positive antibody result will indicate that you have the virus, even if it’s in it’s latent dormant form.
So who exactly gets cold sores?
Almost Everyone worldwide is at risk to get cold sores.
It’s important to note that Herpes simplex viruses are among the most common causes of human viral infections.
And men and women are both equally affected by HSV -1 infection.
It’s believed that the body’s immune response to HSV-1 and HSV-2 , persist for a lifetime, after the primary infection of the host.
As a result, a prevalence of Herpes simplex infections is measured by testing various populations for the presence of HSV antibodies.
It’s believed that 90% percent of all people experience at least one outbreak of cold sores in their lifetime.
Are cold sores contagious?
Cold sores usually last about 7 to 10 days and they are highly contagious until they dry up and crust over completely.You can get cold sores when you come into direct contact with people who are having an HSV type 1 outbreak. But it’s also possible to contract HSV from people who have the virus lying dormant in their bodies by sharing things that carry the virus.
To sum up you can get cold sores by any of the following:
- You can get HSV from kissing someone who’s having a cold sore on his/ her lip
- Sharing eating utensils with an infected person
- Sharing towels or razors can also get you cold sores
- Touching a cold sore with your bear hands then touching your face can also spread the infection
- Sharing lip balm, or lipstick with an infected person
- Receiving oral sex from someone who has cold sores
- Rubbing ones eyes after touching a cold sore
Are cold sores dangerous?
Having cold sores are generally not a serious issue if you are healthy. But the HSV viral infection can be life-threatening for someone who is medically compromised.
Here is when you should worry about cold sores:
- The HSV infection can be life-threatening to HIV patients.
- Patients who are on immunosuppressive drugs suffer more aggressive symptoms of the viral infection.
- Having a severe case of eczema, may induce a wider outbreak of cold sores all over your body.
- If the infection spreads to the eye this can lead to an ocular herpes infection, which may alter one’s vision and lead to blindness if left untreated.
- If the HSV infection spreads to the brain, it could lead to meningitis or encephalitis.
- Touching one’s genitals after touching a cold sore, or receiving oral sex from someone who is actively contagious, could develop genital herpes, or herpes genitalis.
Good news is: Cold sores are preventable
Cold sores prevention can be obtained in two ways:
- By preventing a primary infection of HSV
- By preventing triggering the latent virus in your system
To know what is needed to prevent another outbreak of cold sores, one should know the main triggers of the infection.
Here are the things that make an outbreak more likely:
- Battling with flu or common cold
- Windy and cold weather
- Sleep deprivation
- Stress and anxiety
- Prolonged exposure to bright sunlight
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
- Undergoing a minor or major surgery
How Can I Prevent Cold Sores?
- Never ever touch cold sores but if you do make sure you wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Replace your toothbrush and tongue brush.
- Avoid kissing someone who has cold sores or shares their utensils.
- Apply a good amount of sunscreen to your face and lips before going out.
- Replace your lip liner, lipstick and lip balm.
- Last but never least, avoid stress and work on lowering it as much as possible as stress and chronic anxiety weakens your resistance to flare-ups.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of fluids.
- Make sure you dress warmly for cold weather.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
How are cold sores treated?
It’s needless to say that fever blisters, are a bother in many ways. They’re not only painful, they make eating, drinking, and speaking very uncomfortable. They can ruin your smile if you have an important meeting coming up.
It’s important to note that the treatment of those viral infections is just a symptomatic treatment. By that we mean that it only treats the symptoms of the break out and makes you less contagious to people around you.
If the cold sore outbreak is really painful, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers like acetaminophen to help reduce the pain. The doctor can also prescribe an anesthetic topical gel to alleviate pain or an antiviral medication to speed up the healing process.
The antiviral medicines available for treatment include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. These oral anti viral medications are much more effective when the treatments starts within the first 48 hours of the outbreak. Other antiviral medications are also available in a topical form.
Keeping the sores clean is crucial
It is important to keep the cold sores clean by washing them gently with soap and water to prevent bacterial infections.
Soft diet is the key for a speedy recovery
Doctors always recommend their patients to stick to a soft diet and drink lots of fluids.
Treating your cold sores doesn’t have to be expensive. There is a lot of home remedies that you can try, that can make your cold sores heal faster and look better they heal.
Here is how you can treat cold sores at home
There are many simple things that you can do at the comfort of your home to soothe the annoying sting and pain of your cold sore, this includes some of the following:
There are various natural home remedies that can help you get rid of cold sores on your lip fast. Here are some of them:
1. Ice Cubes
You can numb the painful cold sore if you apply cold packs to it. Ice also helps with reducing swelling and redness.
Wrap an ice cube in a clean piece of cloth and then hold it against the affected area for 10 minutes. For better results make sure you repeat this process 5 times daily.
Applying a thin film of honey on your sores can greatly help in many ways. Applying honey four times daily can make your sores heal in three days. Honey can also help with alleviating the painful sting.
3. Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract is thought to be a natural anti-viral agent. Simply, wet a piece of cotton swab with 100% pure vanilla extract.
Gently apply it on your cold sore and keep it there for 1 minute. Repeat the application 4 times daily until your cold sore is gone.
4. Use peppermint essential oil
Peppermint oil has powerful antiviral properties that make it a perfect home remedy for such viral infection.
All you need to do is to wet a cotton swab with peppermint oil and keep it on the affected area for about 2 minutes. Make sure you repeat this 3 to 4 times a day.
5. Oregano essential oil
Oregano oil is a powerful antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory remedy.
Oregano oil can help kill the virus by disrupting its viral envelope.
It can also help by reducing swelling and its anti-inflammatory properties can promote faster healing. Simply, saturate a cotton swab with oregano oil and hold it against the sore for 1 minute.You can repeat this process 3 times daily.
Garlic is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties that can help minimize the swelling and inflammation accompanying cold sores.
It’s also known for its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help speed up the recovery.
You just need to crush half a clove of garlic, and then hold it against the blistered area until the burning sensation goes away. Repeat this process 4 times daily for best results.
Tahini is a well known home remedy in the Middle East for both cold sores and aphthous ulcers.
This gentle home remedy is really good for reducing the pain and getting red of cold sores fast if used 3 times daily. .
8. Licorice Extract
The Licorice extract can help speed up the recovery of the cold sore. Just add 1 tablespoon of licorice extract to half a teaspoon of petroleum jelly, and mix them well.
Apply a thin layer of the mixture to your cold sore 3 times daily.
9. Aloe vera gel.
This is without a doubt another very effective remedy to heal cold sores.The same gel that is commonly used for sunburn conditions may help a fever blister to heal fast.
All you need to do is just paint a thin film of aloe vera gel on your sore three times daily.
Eat immune-boosting foods
Having a bowl off chicken broth with some mushrooms and vegetables, is not only good because they are soft, but also because they are loaded with nutrients that can boost your immune system.
Having proper immunity and body resistance can ensure you a fast recovery. Adding garlic, ginger, turmeric to your recipes can do magic to your immune system.
Add natural vitamin supplements to your diet
- Vitamin E : Vitamin E plays a major role as an antioxidant in the body. As a result Vitamin E helps repair damaged skin. Here are a few natural sources of Vitamin E: Almonds, spinach, sweet Potato, avocado, butternut squash, and olive oil.
- Zinc: Zinc acts as a potent antioxidant, fighting free radical damage and promoting healing process. Zinc rich foods include the following: Mushrooms, spinach, chicken, lamb meat, and Chickpeas.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is one of the major anti-oxidants out there. Vitamin C can be found in mango, papaya, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Use OTC creams.
Over the counter creams can help keep your skin and lips moist and soft as the sore heals. Preventing cracking of the lips is crucial to limit the sores breakout.
Here are a few things to avoid when you have cold sores:
Avoid eating acidic fruits:
As they make the painful sting sensation of your cold sores much worse.This includes citrus fruits like:
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, mandarin oranges, and tangerine. Acidic fruits also include strawberries, tomatoes, and cranberries. Bear in mind that you should also stay away from pickles.
Lemonades and acidic energy drinks:
They are just as bad as the acidic fruits. But if you can’t help craving them you can have them by suing a straw.
Make sure you keep your staw away from your cold sore to avoid spreading the infection across your lips.
Avoid having salads with vinegar and lemon dressings
Try to enjoy your fresh salads without acidic dressings to avoid making your cold sore worse.
Is it can slow down the healing of your blisters and can spread the infection allover your lips.
Avoid taking big bites of food
As this can cause a premature rupture of your blisters. As a result, oozing of the infectious blister fluid will take place which can infect other parts of your lips. Stick to small bites of soft food instead.
Don’t share makeup
Even if it’s an emergency. Don’t do it.
Last but never least, avoid infecting your loved ones
Make sure your loved ones are safe by not kissing them. Also don’t share utensils or toothbrushes with them.