What Are Cold Sores? How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores ?
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters or herpes labialis, are small blisters which usually occur on or around the mouth. The region of occurrence of cold sores is generally on the face, around the mouth, inside the mouth or on the nose. However, they can occur on other parts of the body too, especially on genital area. They are caused due to a virus called herpes simplex virus (HSV) which is very contagious and transfers to another person on contact with the affected area. The virus remains dormant most of the time but can become active and trigger cold sores 2-3 times in a year.
The only cause of cold sores is the HSV virus which can infect you if you have been in contact with a person in whom that virus was active at the time when you made contact. Since cold sores develop around the mouth, it is most often transferred by kissing someone else’s mouth or any other body part. Sometimes, cold sores may also be caused due to HSV type-2 virus which is the cause for genital cold sores and is transferred through oral sex.
Cold sores can be identified from the following symptoms:
- Burning and itching sensation on the lips.
- Cold sores make the mouth extremely sore such that even talking is very painful, let alone eating or drinking.
- The throat goes dry and also gets sore.
- In some cases, people also develop a fever if the sores are severe.
When you contract the HSV virus, it may or may not get activated immediately in your body. When it does get activated, the first sign you will notice is soreness around your mouth and throat with an unusual burning sensation. Subsequently, a small patch on your lips will start getting red and a blister will appear. Unlike pimples, these sores will be filled with a watery fluid. The blister will burst after a few days and scab over. New blisters will appear and the cycle will repeat itself for 7-10 days.
Diagnosis of cold sores does not require any specific test. They are easily identifiable by their appearance. However, in cases where cold sores recur very frequently, a skin biopsy may be performed in which a sample of affected skin is examined under a microscope.
The first question that the doctor is likely to ask you is whether you were in contact with a person who had cold sores in the last few days. Cold sores are extremely infectious and even the smallest contact with a blister either by lips, fingers or any other body part can transfer the HSV virus. If you cannot recall whether you have been in contact with such a person, chances are that the virus may have been transferred to you some time in the past and remained dormant in your body till now. If you have suffered from cold sores in the past, then no further proof is needed for the diagnosis since cold sores can get triggered quite easily by mental stress, unhealthy eating habits and menstruation.
Cold sores may be quite painful when they are at their prime. They can cause soreness around the mouth which in turn makes it difficult to eat, drink or talk. But generally, they tend to heal on their own within 7-10 days. Since they are basically a mouth disease, medicines are not prescribed unless the sores are very bad or if they do not heal within a week or so.
You can avoid being infected by the HSV virus by making sure that if someone is suffering from a cold sore, then you do not come in physical contact with him, especially of lips and hands. However, in spite of best efforts, sometimes it is just not possible to prevent it. But if you are infected with the virus and are currently suffering an outbreak of cold sores, you can prevent it from being spread to other people you come in contact with by taking some precautions. The most basic one is to avoid touching anyone with the affected patch of skin. You should also wash your hands as often as possible and avoid touching others on their bare skin at a time when your sores are oozing fluid.
Cold sores can be of two types depending on the virus with which the body has been infected:
- HSV Type 1 – This is the most common virus for cold sores and generally causes sores around the mouth or even inside the mouth.
- HSV Type 2 – This kind of virus is less common and it restricts sores mostly to genital areas. It has also been related to herpes which is a sexually transmitted disease. It can be transferred through touch, but more often through sex or oral sex.
Cold sores is considered to be a mild illness which can get cured on its own without use of any medication. However, sometimes complications may arise if the sores are too big or too frequent. Since they cause soreness around the mouth and make it difficult to eat or drink, it can lead to weakness and dehydration due to loss of glucose and essential fluids in the body. The HSV virus can also spread to other parts of the body where it can cause blisters called whitholes which are very painful and can take a while to heal.
Home Remedies :
There are several home remedies for treating cold sores. Some of them are listed below.
- Application of topical oils like lavender oil can speed up the healing process of the sores.
- Apply a tea bag soaked in warm water to the sore at least twice a day to soothe the burning.
- Treat the sore by pressing a cube of ice gently against it till the lip becomes numb. This can greatly subdue the virus and prevent it from growing.
- Avoid acidic foods like tomatoes and pineapple as they will cause the sores to burn more.
- Eat food which is rich in protein like eggs and cheese since protein helps in fight sores.
Cold sores generally do not require treatment as they can heal on their own within 7-10 days. The above stated home remedies are also quite effective in speeding up the healing. However, there are also some antiviral creams available as OTC purchases which can be used if the sores do not heal quickly. A cold sore patch may also be tried out for a particularly bad cold sore. This patch contains hydrocolloid gel which when placed over the sore will help it heal quickly.
Recurring Cold Sores :
Since cold sores are caused due to a virus, it is not uncommon for them to recur at regular intervals. Some people feel exasperated that they never had cold sores their entire life and then after a one infection they start getting cold sores after every alternate month. This is something that you cannot escape because the HSV virus has taken root inside your body. You can try antiviral creams to prevent cold sores when you feel the familiar soreness or burning sensation. Also, the virus is triggered due to certain factors like tiredness, stress, alcohol, sunlight etc. Identify what triggers the virus for you and avoid it.