The last thing anyone wants is an inflamed, red and crusted-over cold sore on their lip. Also known as fever blisters, this inconvenient sore typically appears in the areas surrounding the lips and mouth but can appear anywhere on the skin. They are caused by HSV-1 or what is known as Herpes Simplex Virus.
Infections of HSV-1 are very common worldwide and up to 90% of American adults have been exposed to the virus. HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes although HSV-2 is the main cause of genital herpes. There is no cure for HSV-1 and once you have it, it is likely to come back periodically. However, you can have HSV-1 and not show any symptoms. What can trigger an outbreak is exposure to the sun, fever, menstruation, emotional stress, a weakened immune system, or an illness.
Signs and symptoms of cold sores
· Small, painful, fluid-filled blisters around the lips or edge of mouth
· Tingling or burning around the mouth or nose, often a few days before blisters appear
· Sore throat
· Swollen lymph nodes in neck
Causes of cold sores
There primary way in which cold sores are spread is through saliva. Therefore kissing, sharing drinking glasses or utensils, personal items like a razor or toothbrush and receiving oral sex from someone with HSV-1 can lead to contracting the virus.
Ways to prevent cold sores
· Avoid kissing people with visible cold sores
· Do not share personal items
· Wash your hands frequently
· If you have HSV-1, be careful touching your eyes and genitals
· Use sunscreen
· Reduce stress
When it comes to treating cold sores, what works for one person may not work for another. Some remedies help limit the spread of the virus while others reduce the chance of further infections or decrease pain and discomfort.
Here are some natural cold sore remedies:
· Lip balms with at least 1 percent lemon balm
· Drinking lemon tea and using lemon tea compresses
· Lysine, an amino acid, found available as a supplement or in a cream. Studies have shown that taking lysine supplements can help prevent breakouts and prevent future flare-ups.
· Reduce stress as it can cause the herpes virus to come out of dormancy. Practice stress reducing methods of meditation and regular exercise.
· Apply ice to the cold sore – this is mainly to help reduce discomfort and inflammation
· Aloe vera – Studies show aloe vera applied topically to genital herpes (HSV-2) aids in healing, it may help in reducing cold sores or HSV-1.
· Zinc oxide cream– Research shows applying this cream within 24 hours of symptoms can help shorten the length of an outbreak and reduce symptoms of blistering, itching and soreness.
· Vitamin E – This helps the body repair damaged skin cells. Choose foods rich in this nutrient of nuts, whole wheat grains, and leady greens.
· Vitamin C – Boosts levels of the body’s infection-fighting cells. Vitamin C-rich foods include all citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, peppers, kiwis, broccoli, and spinach.
· Over the counter medications that can treat cold sores include Abreva, Zilactin, Anbesol, and Orajel.
· Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol can help keep cold sores clean.