Cold Sores

Cold sores, also referred to as fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores are contagious. They are often mistaken for canker sores – a non contagious mouth ulcer. Cold sores mainly occur on the skin adjacent to mouth, mostly on the lips. Sometimes they may occur on chin, nostrils, fingers or genitals. The medical term for cold sores is recurrent herpes labialis.

The herpes simplex is a much dreaded virus because of the symptoms and effects of infection, of which cold sores inside the mouth happen to be just one of the possible symptoms. There is no permanent cure for an infection and the only solution is treatment and relief of symptoms as and when they arise. Cold sore symptoms could easily be overlooked or confused with other less worrying conditions. However one should remember that if an infection is diagnosed, the condition can be treated using cold sore home remedies and cold sore treatments. It should be pointed out that herpes is highly contagious and the infection can easily be passed on through direct contact. Sexual contact with an infected individual poses the highest risk of contagion, including via oral sex.

Cold Sores Picture

As mentioned, cold sores and fever blisters are attributed to the herpes simplex virus. Keep in mind however that there are two distinct types of the herpes simplex virus. While Type 1 is generally found to be the cause for cold sores, type 2 affects the genital area. This is why they are often referred to as oral herpes and genital herpes respectively. The problem with a cold sores infection is that the condition is highly contagious and to make matters worse symptoms may not always be present. This means that you could unwittingly spread or pick up an infection. In cases of oral herpes where symptoms do develop they are painful and unsightly. Cold sore blisters tend to occur in the areas surrounding the mouth, such as on the lips, chin, cheeks, or even in the nostrils. Cold sores or fever blisters that develop in the mouth are most likely to occur on the gums or roof of the mouth.

Most people are unsure of how to get rid of cold sores? The stress laid on precautions and preventive measures against a herpes infection are not without good cause. Both types of herpes are incurable. There are no natural cures for cold sores, nor are there any over the counter cold sores treatments that work. Cold sore remedies and natural cold sore treatments like ice can only offer relief from the symptoms of cold sores as and when they occur. They may also help to minimize the occurrence of outbreaks or aid in treating the sores. If it is a permanent cure that you are looking for however, then even the best cold sore remedy would fail. The herpes virus is so problematic because unlike most other viral infections, wherein the body’s natural defenses gradually eliminate the virus from your system, the herpes virus lingers on. This is why anyone who has experienced a cold sores or rather a herpes infection is most likely to experience recurring outbreaks throughout his or her life. Herpes cold sores treatments with both natural home remedies and medications can only address the symptoms as they simply help to relieve the pain and discomfort of cold sores.

Conventional treatments for cold sores generally involve the use of ointments and other topical applications for the blisters, while antibiotics are generally administered to control and prevent secondary bacterial infections. The use of latex condoms can also help to some extent in the prevention of picking up or spreading the infection. A herpes infection is particularly threatening to newborn babies and to any individual with a weakened immune system.

Symptoms of Cold Sores

Generally signs and symptoms of cold sores are seen after twenty days of exposure to the virus. Small, painful and fluid-filled red or brown blisters could be seen on the skin. Blisters may burst and ooze. Tingling precedes blisters after one or two days. Once infected by the virus you may experience head ache, irritability and fever. There may be problem in swallowing any food stuff or liquid. Itching and swelling of lips are common. Lymph nodes on the neck may swell. Drooling may be seen among small children. Symptoms may last from seven to ten days.

Cold sores most often tend to appear on the lips, but could also appear on the nostrils, chin and possibly on the fingers. At times there could also be an appearance of cold sores on the insides of your mouth, on the gums or cheek, but in most cases these are canker sores. It should be pointed out that herpes simplex, which is the virus responsible, is highly contagious and thus spreads very quickly from one person to the other. Besides this, treatment could be delayed as the symptoms, such as cold sore symptoms could take as much as 20 days to appear, following exposure. You would probably notice that in around two weeks the cold sores inside the mouth clear naturally, with the formation of blisters and their eventual breakage. This is then followed by the formation of a yellowish crust that eventually sloughs off to reveal fresh skin below that heals without scarring.

Prior to the appearance of full fledged cold sore symptoms you would probably notice a tingling sensation in the area and may also notice the area to be slightly raised and inflamed. This sensation in the area is called prodrome and tends to appear a day or two prior to the actual appearance of the cold sore inside the mouth or anywhere else on the body.

Cold sore outbreaks usually clear up on their own without any herpes or cold sores treatments. Cold sores treatment with home remedies and other fast fixes simply provide relief. There are however certain circumstances under which it would be advisable to seek a doctor’s advice:

  • If you suffer from a compromised or weakened immune system due to some pre-existing health condition.
  • If the cold sores are persistent and linger on for more than one or two weeks when untreated.
  • If the symptoms are severe or if cold sore outbreaks are very frequent.
  • If you also experience irritation in the eyes.

Cold sores symptoms may not always be present even if you have been infected with the herpes virus. Under normal circumstances the symptoms of cold sores may only surface around twenty days after exposure and infection, and in some cases the symptoms may not even become apparent until much later. This however does not mean that you are not infected and you could still be a carrier of the virus and pose a serious risk of infection to others. It would therefore make sense to go in for type specific blood tests if you even have the slightest suspicion or reason to believe that you may have been exposed to infection. Some conditions for reasonable suspicion include the following:

  • If you are in a physical relationship with a partner who is infected, despite which you have never experienced symptoms and have not been tested.
  • If you have been in a relationship with a partner who was infected, or if you are aware that your partner may have been exposed to the virus.
  • If you have had several sexual partners or have engaged in unprotected casual sex and would like to be tested for prevalent STDs.

Causes of Cold Sores

HSV 1 and HSV2 Virus

Herpes virus that causes cold sores is of two types: HSV 1 and HSV 2. In most of the cases HSV 1 is the cause. Generally HSV 1 causes oral herpes and HSV 2 causes genital herpes, but not necessary, both can infect any area of the body. As these viruses are contagious, cold sores can be caused by close contact like hugging and kissing with the infected person. It may be that a person has recovered from cold sore and the symptoms are not visible but the virus still remains present and can be transmitted to others.

Herpes is contracted primarily through direct skin contact with an infected individual. This contact is not necessarily with genital areas. In some cases the virus responsible for cold sores may also be passed on through indirect contact such as through sharing a lip balm or lip stick or from shared towels. Although the virus normally passes through tiny lesions or breaks in the skin, generally mucus membranes in the oral and genital areas, microscopic abrasions that would go unnoticed could also allow for passage of the virus.

Re-occurence of Cold Sores

Some triggers like pregnancy, lips or gum injury, dental treatment, cosmetic surgery, fatigue, stress, and hormonal changes may cause cold sore to reoccur.

Although there are many possible triggers for the recurrence of cold sores inside the mouth, more often than not, a connection can be drawn between recurrent outbreaks of cold sores and periods of weakened immunity. This could mean that you are more likely to experience a recurrence when you are fatigued or overworked or even when you are experiencing your menstrual cycle. At other time, excess alcohol consumption, prolonged exposure to sunlight, health conditions or ailments that compromise immunity, when subjected to excessive stress or if suffering depression, certain medications, or restrictive or deficient diets could increase the risk of an outbreak.

A permanent cure for cold sores is not really possible, whether one uses conventional medicine or cold sore home remedies. However, it should be pointed out that there are plenty of effective methods of preventing or at least minimizing the occurrence and severity of outbreaks of cold sores inside the mouth.

Consult a nutritionist to find out about nutritional supplements that you can take to boost your immunity, as lysine, which is an amino acid, and antioxidants are believed to strengthen immunity and boost your natural defenses against infections and outbreaks. Avoid self prescribing however as vitamins and minerals can also be overdosed on, causing further complications.

Possible Threats

All of us are aware of the high risk of contagion of herpes, but there are some circumstances that are particularly threatening such as the risk of spreading an infection of cold sores in children, babies or infants. There is a risk of infection through direct contact and the risk is highest from the appearance of the blisters until shortly after the skin has healed. During this period it is important that you avoid contact with any of these high risk groups like children and infants. Anyone suffering from eczema or conditions that cause a suppressed immunity like AIDs or cancer, or someone who has gone through an organ transplant is also at a very high risk and it would be advisable to avoid interacting with people from these high risk categories if you have an active infection.

The other serious complication threatens sufferers of herpes itself as if the infection sets in, in the eyes, it can cause scarring of the cornea and is very likely to be a cause of blindness.

Remedies for Cold Sores

Use Ice

Ice is a very good home remedy for cold sores. Rub ice on the infected skin for few minutes, repeat this every hour.

Use Tea Bag

Apply a tea bag for few minutes on the blisters, repeat this every hour. One can also consider pressing a warm tea bag on the blisters for approximately 30 minutes.

Other Remedies

Applying Witch Hazel on sores will give you some relief. Dip your moist index finger in powdered common salt and press the sore for 30 seconds using this index finger. Gently rub aloe vera gel or oil on the sores. Lemon balm extract helps to reduce symptoms and speeds up healing.

Those having weak immune system will take more time to recover and may face more severe consequences.

Very often over exposure or sensitivity to sunlight could cause outbreaks of cold sores inside the mouth. In order to avoid such situations it is advisable to use a good quality sunscreen on your lips if you are going to be spending too much time in the sun.

Make sure that you do not simply attempt to disguise the cold sores by using makeup and other cosmetic products as very often the chemicals in them will simply cause further irritation to the skin and worsen the condition.

Use Licorice

Cold sore treatment with cold sore home remedies like candy may sound far fetched but there is some truth to it. According to many researchers licorice can actually help inhibit the development of cold sores. This effect is attributed to an ingredient in licorice, known as glycyrrhizic acid. Try chewing on a licorice whip, but just you would need to be sure that it is actually made from real licorice. You could also simply buy some licorice powder and sprinkle it over the sores.

Use Cold Milk

According to some naturalists cold milk has a role in cold sore treatment as they believe it can provide relief and even promote healing. According to some, you could simply soak a cotton ball or swab in some cold milk and dab it or apply gently over the sore.

Certain Things you Need to Avoid

Do not use cosmetic products in an attempt to hide cold sores. Burying the cold sores under a layer of makeup will simply aggravate the problem as most cosmetics do contain some chemicals, which would be too harsh for your already highly sensitized skin.

Avoid picking or pinching at a cold sore as this poses a high threat of bacterial infection. Also make sure that you never touch the cold sore and then touch your eyes or genitals, as this will simply spread the infection. Always make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly or use a hand sanitizer after touching a cold sore.

Use Zinc Lozenges

Stress can trigger cold sores and one of the best ways to prevent cold sores is by sucking on zinc lozenges. These lozenges are very good for boosting the immune system and can therefore help in preventing cold sores.

Use Peppermint Oil

For cold sore on lips treatment using peppermint oil has also been found to be very effective. Peppermint oil can penetrate the skin and its powerful antiviral properties can have a curing effect on cold sores.

Use Reishi and Astragalus

The Reishi mushroom has been widely used in Chinese medicine to boost immunity. 600 milligrams of this herb in powder or supplement form can be taken one or two times a day to control the spread of cold sores causing herpes virus. Reishi is also used in combination with an herb called astragalus to improve immunity in people who have been infected with the herpes virus.

Use Hydrogen Peroxide

A good home remedy for cold sores on the tongue is a solution prepared by mixing water with 2 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, one teaspoon of baking soda and five teaspoons of salt. This solution can be used to rinse the mouth for at least a minute, 4-5 times a day to effectively get rid of cold sores on the tongue.

Use Raw Onion

Small pieces of raw onion can be applied directly on the cold sores for treating and preventing cold sores from getting worse.

Use Plum Juice

For getting rid of cold sores on tongue and in the mouth, 2 tablespoons of plum juice freshly squeezed can be used as a mouth rinse. In case of severe cold sores, a cotton ball can be soaked for sometime in the plum juice and then used as a compress over the cold sores to relieve pain and inflammation.

Diet for Cold Sores

Avoid acidic and salty foods. Foods such as chocolates, peanuts, grains, peas, seeds, oatmeal and whole-wheat are high in arginine, therefore they should be restricted. Avoid tea and coffee. Eat vitamin rich diet. Your diet must include vitamin A, C and E. Zinc and iron are also necessary. Include garlic in your diet. Eat fresh food with high antioxidants and high complex carbohydrates. Avoid processed food. Eat lots of fruits and green leafy vegetables.While lysine, the amino acid, exercises a positive effect on your body’s natural defense system, arginine, which is another amino acid, demonstrates a suppressing effect on lysine. It is therefore best to restrict your intake of arginine sources like meats, dairy produce, nuts, seeds and corn. It is not necessary to avoid these foods completely though.

During an outbreak it would be advisable to avoid consuming citric fruits like oranges and lemons as they may cause severe irritation to any cold sore inside the mouth. For the same reason it would also be best to avoid any spicy or hard, crisp foods that could irritate the skin.

Suggestions for Cold Sores

Always wash your hand after touching your fingers or genitals. Always avoid direct contact with the blisters due to cold sores. Apply sunscreen cream on the susceptible areas. Never share your personal belongings like tooth brush with the infected person.It is important that you get adequate rest and relaxation, and follow a healthy diet and exercise routine, as they are essential in building your natural immunity. This is important because in reality this is the only defense against the outbreak of cold sores inside the mouth.

If the infection is persistent and spreads to your eyes make sure that you consult a doctor promptly.

Cold Sores Treatments - more information
Cold Sores - Frequently asked questions
53 Cold Sores remedies suggested by our users
Treatment of cold sores
suggested by Robert on Thursday, January 15, 2009

Soak some cotton wool in white vinegar and apply to infected area 4 times daily.

Cold sores natural treatment
suggested by Eddie on Sunday, December 14, 2008

I have suffered with occasional cold sores most of my life (55yrs).Over the years I have tried several remedies, ie: aloe vera, nail polish remover, lip balms, Carmex, Mentholatum, Anbesol, and many other things. The latest attempts have been the most successful for me. Oil of Oregano has worked well but it does sting some. The last and best "cure" for me has been a silver bearing gel, more specifically mAGnum Power Gel, available at most health food stores. Just yesterday I felt the onset of a sore and applied a small dab to the sore a couple of times and it was gone today. I find most remedies work well the first couple of times and then seem to lose their effectiveness over time. The silver gel has been the best performer to date. It also works quite nicely on canker sores, put a dab on a cotton swab and apply to the sore and keep it on the sore for a short time.

Various strategies
suggested by Benn on Monday, June 9, 2008

I have suffered from cold sores on lips, inside nose and in and around the right eye (totally horrible). After much research and a detailed blood analysis from a qualified naturopath, I found I had low zinc and iron levels, both heavily implicated in the root cause for the HSV-1 virus to "flare up". In conjunction with this, the majority of people consume significant quantities of products containing white flour (ie, most breads, cakes, muffins etc.) which contain high levels of gluten. Gluten has been scientifically proven to lower a large proportion of humans' immune systems (some more than others). As a result I COMPLETELY eliminated white flour and pasta products and substituted them with spelt, rye or kamut breads, flours, pastas etc. Not only are these products enormously higher in nutritional value, they are a hundred times tastier. I instantly felt a difference in overall energy levels as these products are more easily digested and have far lower GI ratings. This will have a significant impact on your immune system. In conjunction with this, if you are low in zinc or iron levels (only a qualified naturopath or GP can diagnose this) as I was, taking supplemental iron and zinc in picolinate forms (highly absorbable for people with lower immune systems) will assist greatly. Other advice is to completely eliminate alcohol, and sleep well every night, not most, all. Further, as everyone knows but does not adhere to, only eat products made from the above mentioned ingredients, lots of salads, vegetables and fruits and I guarantee if you abide by all my advice (as I do), you WILL NOT get cold sores ever, unless there is an underlying issue (such as severe health conditions OR people who have anger management issues). A normal everyday person WILL benefit as I have, the food you eat is crucial. There is no miracle lip balm that will stop the virus from sprouting out. They MAY temporarily inhibit a cold sore forming, but as soon as you forget to smear it on or get too run down, it wont help, but my approach will strengthen your immune system and actually make you feel alive again. In saying that, there is a lip balm I recently came across which has the best ingredients related to the HSV-1 virus, its called COLD SORE SALVE, it's made in South Australia and has the following ingredients; raw beeswax, organic coconut oil, grapes seed oil, organic lemon balm extract, organic saint john's wort extract, essential oils of eucalyptus, lemon, margosa, turpentine bush & organic tea tree, cold pressed apricot & sweet almond oils, water, ethanol, organic astragalus extract, organic echinacea purpurea extract, witch hazel extract, myrrh, benzoin & labdanum extracts, cats claw & shiitake mushroom extracts, organic elderberry extract, menthol, white camphor, salicylic acid AND l-lysine. This balm WILL work and soothes your lips. If you are serious about not getting outbreaks which seem to arrive at the most inconvenient time, adhere to my advice, I am a changed man for doing so. Good luck!

Liquoice lip balm
suggested by Sophie on Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hey guys, for all you people who suffer from cold sores like myself and are desperate to find a cure, there is a lip balm called liquorice lip balm which is to prevent and shorten the healing process. Because I had done some research on google, and there was a woman who said that she had suffered severe frequent cold sore attacks since a very young age and had tried every type of cure/remedy, and had no success. Until one day she tried the Liquorice lip balm. And apparently she had not suffered from any cold sore attacks from as long as she has been using the balm! Also there was another story of another woman who said she also suffered frequent attacks, and didn’t believe it would work until one day she tried it, and has said she has not suffered any attacks for the last 16 months! All I can say is wow! I have not tried it personally yet, but if definitely am going to buy some. You use it as an everyday lip balm, even if you do not have an outbreak of blisters.

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