John was a Navy hospital corpsman. He worked the general sick bay, managed a carrier O.R., and treated heat rash, eczema, and dyshidrosis.
Awareness Information is No Substitute for a Doctor's Care
Cold sores, also called fever blisters, present an annoying problem from the standpoint of their unpredictable breakout pattern and the eyesore (no pun intended) they create.
There are two herpes virus's that cause herpes type sore outbreaks. Herpes Simplex (HSV1) is responsible for outbreaks of lesions mainly on the lips (they also can develop on cheeks or nostrils), while Herpes Simplex2 (HSV2) is responsible for genital herpes.
Treatments for both conditions do not cure the problem. Rather, they help make the duration time of the sores be shorter and the severity less. In both instances medicine must be applied at the first sign of an eruption (tingling sensation or beginning of a blister). This article will focus on Herpes Simplex1 and cold sores of the mouth.
The literature on the subject frequently describes the beginning of a cold sore as eliciting a "tingling sensation" near the mouth. It is at this time that anti-viral medicine for cold sores should be taken. This is important as a fever blister is something one is usually very self-conscious about. Facial outbreaks are hard to hide. It is a difficult problem to handle in the work a day world. Most cold sores last anywhere from 10 to 14 days. Complete healing is required to prevent the spread of the virus through contact.
The following are medicines commonly prescribed by physicians for cold sores: acyclovir 5% cream (zovirax), penciclovir 1% cream (denavir), famciclovir (famvir), valacyclovir (valtrex), and oral acyclovir. These medicines actually work against the Herpes Simplex1 virus.
As is the case with most skin eruptions, cold sores can dry up, crack, and then bleed. Vaseline can be used to keep the scab or crust moist so it doesn't crack.
There are other things the individual can do to alleviate the pain and duration of the fever blisters. Applying ice wrapped in a washcloth for not longer than 10-15 minutes to the area can reduce pain. Washing hands after touching a sore can help prevent the spread of Herpes Simplex1. The most common means of transmittal is touch from fingers, kissing, or using cups or utensils that have been in contact with the virus. If sun seems to be a trigger for the cold sore, wear sunscreen when outdoors. Lip balm can be useful also.
Dealing with Cold Sores - More Ideas
Here are more things that a patient can do to be proactive with cold sores:
1. It has been reported that cutting a vitamin E capsule and rubbing the contents on the sore can shorten healing time. Remember to wash hands.
2. Your toothbrush can re-infect you. Upon an outbreak, get another toothbrush. When the fever blister is healed, throw that toothbrush away and get a new one.
3. Heat has been reported to reduce the pain of a cold sore.
4. For immediate relief, applying a wet tea bag to the sore has been reported effective in promoting healing and helping with pain.
5. Eating garlic in capsule form or fresh from the market can help. Garlic is a natural antiviral.
6. Witch hazel in cold compress has been reported to help.
7. Some people hasten healing by opening the blisters and draining them at the site. They claim this results in faster healing.
8. Anbesol Cold Sore Therapy is an anesthetic that can help with pain reduction.
9. Campho-Phenique can be applied to the sore by finger or sometimes an applicator included with the medicine. I have seen reports that it reduces pain, helps dry out fever blisters, and stops itching if present. Camphor Essential Oil can also be used. It is available at herb stores(herbsMD.com).
10. Rub aloe vera oil or gel on the sore.
11. Trying to cover the fever blister with makeup can actually cause more harm than good. The stuff in the makeup can irritate the lip, unnecessarily increasing the time to heal completely.
12. Licorice powder can be placed on the sore.
13. Lemon balm extract seems to help people with pain and duration.
14. Dip a cotton ball or swab in cold milk and apply it to the sore.
15. Lyscine comes as an oral supplement or cream. Eat chicken, turkey, beans, and fish.
16. Using a baking soda rinse can soothe the area, especially if it is inside the mouth.
17. Nuts, chocolate, and acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus seem to increase the likelihood of cold sores in some people.
18. Orajel (yes, what you used on your teething children) and Ambesol can relieve pain in the area. If children are under 2, consult a physician. Some Orajel products are used in children 4 months and older. Always contact a health professional before use.
19. Exposing the cold sore to sunlight can contribute to larger more painful cold sores, particularly in very fair-skinned people. Folks with fair skin should avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight while the virus is active.
For even more ideas for home treatment of cold sores, see https://healdove.com/alternative-medicine/Best-Natural-Home-Remedies-and-Treatment-for-Cold-Sores
Infected at an Early Age
Most people get their first exposure to Herpes Simplex 1 as children through contact with other children or an adult who passed it along. So realize that whether there is or not, there should be no stigma to having a cold sore.
Not unlike Herpes Zoster (shingles), the Herpes Simplex 1 virus also hides. But instead of hiding in the spine, it hides deep in the skin. It hides after an initial exposure to the virus from contact of some sort. When the immune system is under duress from allergy, flu, stress, etc., the virus comes out and targets the mouth area. I have read a description of its activity in the body as "hibernating" and then being "activated". There are many stressors that can give the virus an opportunity to activate itself.
Each episode of cold sores tends to be less severe, until in some cases, the incidence of them may stop. There is no cure for Herpes Simplex 1, and a vaccine for cold sores is not available now.
Herpesgingiva, Involvement of the Gums
In 2013, scientists discovered that a mutated gene, IL28B, was present in people who experienced cold sores. This could explain why 25% of the population suffers with the problem, even though 80-90% of the population has the virus.
In 2008, research showed relationship between the amount of herpes simplex 1 in mice and inflammation of the brain. A recent study suggests that the level of infectious microorganisms in the blood stream affects memory and cognitive function of the brain. Those folks who had higher levels of herpes simplex 1 and a number of other common agents were more likely to have these problems. One possible explanation may be exposure of the brain to inflammation when the body's immune system tries to fight off these agents. Another explanation is how the brain reacts when it is exposed to infection. Amyloid (a substance found to excess in dementia patients) and heart disease have already been associated with build up of plaque in organs. Higher ongoing and past infection levels look to be possible culprits. There is, however, no study that proves an association between infection and memory loss. The best thing to know right now is that exercise does decrease inflammation.
And here is one final thought. If you are taking medicine for cold sores, make sure you do not take an herbal remedy until you check with your physician. Dangerous interactions have been noted in the literature.
Mayo clinic staff, Lyfestyle and home remedies, May 15, 2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cold-sore/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20021310
Research College of Nursing, Cold Sores, 26 August 2017, EBSCO Publishing http://researchcollege.edu/hl/?/11950/Cold-sores
Anderson, Wayne E., DO, FAHS, FAA Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MD, Herpes Simplex Encephalitis, August 23, 2017, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1165183-overview
Eight medical researcher citations, PMC US Natioanal Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, HSV-1 and Alzheimer's Disease: more than a hypothesis, May 7, 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019841/7,2014,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019841/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 John R Wilsdon
Paz Andrade from Spain on August 23, 2017:
thanks for more information on these sicknesses i'm dealing with!
Kamille on April 26, 2012:
To completely avoid a sore at the first tingle you should immediantly put ice on it, let an entire cube melt on it the put rubbing alcohol on it then repeat. One shouldn't sprout.Iyou
Drake on February 14, 2012:
Thanks for the info, gonna have to try the teabag thing. Also thought I'd had that the cream, Abreva, works very well too.
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on January 29, 2012:
Usually the life span of the cold sore is 10-14 days. The longest duration I found cited was 3 weeks. Good wound treatment is important. 25% of people have them, so you are not alone. Good luck, and thank you for the note.
lexus on January 29, 2012:
Im only 11 and I think I got it from a friend at first I was very scared cuz I didn't know wat to do but as I kept reading on I know tht it won't last tht long.... right? But very useful info thank you.
tebo from New Zealand on January 24, 2012:
Lots of good tips for cold sore sufferers. Plenty of different ones to choose from which is helpful. Thanks.
joey on December 19, 2011:
great advice , top of the roof WOOP WOOP
titi on December 13, 2011:
Very stupid uhhhh it dosent work
Elizabeth on July 07, 2011:
Thanks for sharing. Nice information about Cold Sores Treatment.
deskokuzmanov from Bulgaria on March 13, 2011:
Great article, very useful :)
jon smith on January 27, 2011:
I know a lot of people who have Cold Sores on Lips, thank you for the tips! Very useful information
rwelton from Sacramento CA on December 17, 2010:
wow...a lot of resources I didn't know about - except the vitamin E