5 ways to treat cold sores
Cold sores, or fever blisters, are the sometimes unsightly blemishes that appear around the mouth or lips and are common among adults. These unwanted outbreaks can be recurring, brought on by stress, fatigue, sunlight exposure or hormonal and immune system changes.
There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), which causes the formation of cold sores. Most people with oral herpes were infected during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact with saliva, according to the CDC.
“Herpes simplex virus, commonly called cold sores, is an easily transmitted viral infection that lies dormant in the body even when no physical symptoms may be present,” explains Dr. Melanie Gordon, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “It is spread through close physical contact such as sharing eating utensils, towels and kissing.”
“Outbreaks typically occur in the same area, and blisters take several weeks to fully heal,” says Dr. Gordon. “You may feel an outbreak setting in through an itching or tingling sensation before a blister appears.”
Although there is no cold sore cure, Dr. Gordon recommends these tips to treat an outbreak:
- Uncover your triggers. Cold sores can be brought on by factors such as stress, sickness, dry skin and sun exposure. Make sure to protect the lips using lip balms and creams containing sun protection.
- Treat with medication right away. Catching an outbreak early can lessen the sore’s severity. The sooner you can treat with an antiviral, steroid cream or over-the-counter remedies, the better. Antiviral medication will require a prescription, so this may be a good option for people who experience cold sores frequently.
- Avoid touching or irritating healing blisters. Popping or injuring a blister can put you at risk for an infection, potentially causing permanent scarring.
- Apply a cold compress. Cold compresses are helpful with inflammation and the healing process. Apply several times daily for 5-10 minutes.
- See a doctor. Make an appointment if a cold sore persists and is severe, frequently recurring or accompanied by eye pain.
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