Cold sores are the product of a highly infectious virus called herpes simplex. It is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and usually develops in childhood, when a person with a cold sore delivers a kiss to the child, for instance. Herpes simplex has the ability to penetrate the skin and travel up the nerves. It then lies dormant until it is triggered.
Triggers vary from person to person, but often include stress, fatigue or depression.
For most people, there are no symptoms of infection other than the sore little blister that eventually appears in the region around the mouth. Sometimes, however, the virus can bring on severe symptoms on initial infection. According to the NHS, these can include fever, a swollen throat and glands, dehydration, nausea, headaches and irritated gums with painful sores in and around the mouth.
How often you get a cold sore also varies. Some people can become infected but never get one because the virus never becomes active. Others get them once in a while and some can develop them frequently.
How do I get rid of a cold sore?
Unfortunately, there is as yet no cure for the herpes simplex virus. However, there are an increasing number of highly effective methods for treating a cold sore.
The first outbreak is usually the worst and should be treated with oral medication, according to About Dermatology. Anti-viral drugs are effective in reducing pain and the amount of time a cold sore takes to heal as well as the number and size of lesions.
Topical treatment can be used for recurrences. Popular creams include Topical Denavir, Acyclovir, Famciclovir and Valacyclovir. It is advisable to start applying the cream at the very first signs of a cold sore, which may include burning, itching or redness. The medication serves to relieve symptoms and shorten the life of the sore by several days.
Suppression therapy has not yet been approved by the FDA, but research suggests that people who have more than 6 outbreaks annually could benefit from it. Patients would take a daily dose of medicine generally used to treat symptoms in order to suppress any future ones.
There are, however, those who favour a more organic approach. BBC show ‘Grow your own drugs’ recently claimed that lemon balm can be effective in treating cold sores and showed viewers how to make their own all-natural lip salve.
The ingredients consist of:
- 21 tbsp (approx. 50 g) fresh lemon balm leaves
- 3 tbsp wheatgerm oil
- 115 ml olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp beeswax
- 5 drops tea tree oil
Click here to view the full recipe on the BBC website.
Images: Wikimedia Commons