Cold sores are one of the most common health concerns that can affect both adults and children. This condition can be very painful and is characterized by the presence of fluid-filled lesions that normally develop in or around the mouth area. Cold sores or fever blisters are is due to herpes simplex virus. Although this is not considered as a serious affliction, it could be very contagious and individuals infected with the virus may experience recurrent cold sore outbreaks. Taking these into consideration, treatments and preventive measures should be opted for to prevent the condition from recurring, minimize the frequency and severity of cold sores outbreak and to prevent any further infections.
Causes and Symptoms of Cold Sores
As mentioned, you may start developing cold sores or experiencing outbreaks once herpes simplex virus or HSV infects you. This virus has two different kinds, herpes simplex virus type I and herpes simplex virus type II. Although both strains of this virus are virulent, HSV type I is the most common cause of cold sore outbreaks within the facial area, particularly on the area of the mouth. HSV type II, on the other hand, is often associated with genital herpes.
Cold sores symptoms are presented according to its stages. When infected with the herpes simplex virus, you may not notice any symptoms yet. However, once the virus is activated, you may start experiencing a tingling or itching sensation on the infected area. After two to three days, the affected area will start turning red and you will notice fluid-filled blisters on your skin. After a week, these blisters will start to erupt and release its fluid content before it starts crusting over and proceed to the healing stage. Generally, the fluid-filled blisters may develop within 20 days after being exposed to HSV.
In most cases, cold sores do not require any form of treatment, as the condition may heal naturally after two to three weeks from the first onset of the symptoms. Most treatment options are administered for cosmetic purposes only. Just like any other medical issues, early diagnosis of the condition and timely treatment of it is of utmost importance if you want to shorten the duration of the condition. The best cold sore home remedies and medical treatments include the following:
Topical ointments are commonly used to relieve the pain due to the condition. This can be used before and after the sores erupt, as it could serve as a barrier for the skin and certain irritants that could worsen the symptoms of the condition. These topical ointments or creams can be obtained in the form of skin protectants or lip balms.
Treating cold sores with antiviral medication is most effective during the prodromal stages of the condition. These antiviral medicines are effective against the painful symptoms of the condition, particularly when afflicted with cold sore on lip, and is helpful in reducing the healing period of the sores. However, the administration of oral antiviral medicines for the condition can only be done under the supervision of your physician.
If you are familiar with the condition then you can easily identify it and apply home treatments for it. One of the best home treatments for the condition is the application of ice cubes on the sores. Doing this will not only help numb and soothe the pain due to the blisters, but it can also help prevent the infection from spreading by deactivating HSV. You can also make use of a warm tea bag, as this has antiviral properties that can speed up the process of healing. Using OTC lip moisturizers regularly can also help prevent the scabs from bleeding.
Although vaccinations are available for cold sores, take note that these are not effective for everyone. Based on a clinical trial, the effectiveness of the said vaccines is exclusive to women who are not yet infected with the virus. However, researches are still on going for the formulation of cold sore vaccines that can be effective for all patients.
Cold sores do not cause scarring within the affected area. However, the worst thing about this condition is that it is recurrent. Compared to other viruses that can be completely eliminated from the body, eradicating herpes simplex virus may or may not be possible. This is because the virus may stay dormant for several years and may only reactivate when triggered by certain factors. However, as long as you know what is a cold sore, its causes and symptoms, and the available treatments for it, you can easily manage the condition. It is also possible to prevent the condition from recurring. You can do this by avoiding the foods that can trigger outbreaks, opting for foods that can strengthen your body’s immune system and by simply maintaining proper hygiene.