Whether you call them cold sores or fever blisters, if you’re among the more than 40% of Americans who regularly experience this inflammatory viral nuisance, you know they’re anything but a joy to deal with. You’ve also probably heard of countless ways to deal with them, from over-the-counter remedies to treatment options that span generations. So what really works?
Well, quite honestly what “works” when it comes to cold-sores, is management. And, specifically, preventing, treating and eliminating the transmission of this most annoying of viruses. Here is how you do it:
Cold Sore Prevention
The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is certainly true when it comes to cold sores, so knowing what causes them to surface is key. The number one and number two reasons are a weakened immune system, and exposure to rapidly changing weather. To tackle the weather, always keep your preferred brand of lip moisturizer [you can suggest one you see works well with patients, here… or, even better, one that you sell in the office] with sunscreen on hand to protect your lips from weather’s effect on your lips. And, to boost your immune system, be sure to get enough sleep and find ways to combat stress in your life. Also, as with most things in life, what’s good for our waistlines is good for our immune system. Here are some good dietary suggestions for cold sore sufferers:
- Eat Raw, Alkalizing Foods: Fruits and vegetables are super-good for you. Eat as many of them as you enjoy.
- Beef-up On Cruciferous Vegetables: Clinical studies are beginning to suggest that veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kale are of great benefit to cold-sore sufferers.
- Avoid Arginine: Cold-sores need the amino acid arginine to grow, so if you can limit the excess intake of this amino acid, you may be able to keep frequent outbreaks at bay. Nuts, chocolate, oats, and some protein shakes are high in arginine, and can be major cold-sore triggers.
By merely eating well and getting regular rest, you can help yourself avoid several outbreaks a year.
Cold Sore Treatment and Remedies
Preventing a cold sore from appearing is indeed your best medicine, and if you pay attention to what your body tells you, it is possible to dramatically reduce outbreaks. When a cold-sore does gift you with its presence, though, here are a few things you can do to minimize its pain, size and duration.
- Ice It! At the first sign of tingling, get thee to an ice cube, wrap it in a paper-towel, and place it on your lip where you feel the cold-sore coming on. Often two back-to-back applications of an ice cube until it melts can dramatically reduce the pain and swelling that accompanies the sore.
- Slather It? Not Now, But Later. Cold sores love warm, moist environments, and this is precisely the environment you present to a cold-sore when you slather it in cream for days on end. You’re best to let it dry out to the point where it is no longer painful, and then begin applying cream or lip balm to minimize splitting. As the cold sore resolves itself, it’s best to keep your lips moist to prevent bleeding, which also aids in the healing at this stage.
Eliminate Transmission of Cold Sores
Avoid sharing food, utensils, towels, toothbrushes, or any other item that could come in contact with your mouth. Also, be sure to avoid touching the cold sore and then later touching your eyes or genital area. In fact, your best course of action is to avoid touching your mouth at all during an outbreak, and not again until after the scab has dropped off completely, AND healed over. This can take some weeks, as you know. Kissing, and other aspects of intimacy that involve your mouth should be avoided entirely. Wash your hands often – this cannot be stressed enough to avoid spreading the virus.
Having a cold sore is not the end of the world. Nine out of ten of all people get at least one cold sore in their life, so there is no need to hide in the closet. Understand your triggers, find a solution that works, don’t spread the virus, and stay healthy!