How to Treat a Cold Sore
Do you or someone you know have cold sores? Cold sores are also commonly known as fever blisters. Cold sores may be difficult to treat and affect approximately 50% of the adult population. They often develop quickly and then last around seven to ten days. Clearing a fever blister or cold sore may be difficult, and the recurrence of the sores is high but usually decreases over time.
Many people wonder how to get rid of cold sores. Unfortunately, there is no cold sore cure. However, there are several methods for treating cold sores to reduce the symptoms and prevent the complications that exist with this infection.
What are Cold Sores?
Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin and mucous membranes. The virus that causes the infection is known as the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus causes a disruption in the cells forming blisters typically in or around the mouth. A cold sore inside the mouth can be extremely painful. Symptoms of cold sores include:
Cold sores may develop after a person has been newly infected with HSV or if they have a history of HSV exposure. HSV is transmitted by direct contact with a person that is infected with the virus. People can be exposed to the HSV virus through:
- Intimate contact
- Sharing personal items that are used on the face
- Sharing beverages or utensils
- Touching an infected sore
Once a person has a cold sore, they will experience flare-ups of the painful blisters throughout their life. Cold sores can be triggered by stress, hormonal changes, fever, or flu, sun exposure, and injury or surgery to the affected area. If you have this condition, you will want to know how to get rid of cold sores fast.
How are Cold Sores Treated?
Because there is no cold sore cure, knowing how to treat cold sores is very important. Several therapies are available to help prevent flares, reduce symptoms, and prevent the spread of the virus to other people. The best cold sore treatment is one that not only treats any existing blisters but also helps to prevent blister development in the future.
Many home remedies for cold sores exist. These therapies are used to help reduce symptoms and prevent the recurrence of the blisters. Some home remedies for cold sores help to stop the spread of the virus to other people.
Non-pharmacologic or natural treatments for cold sores have become popular. Some of the most common home remedies include:
- Dietary modifications - restricting refined-sugar intake, identifying and avoiding allergenic foods, foods high in bioavailable lysine and low in arginine
- Topical applications - zinc preparations, lemon balm cream, witch hazel oil, , aloe vera gel
- Immune boosters - Vitamin C
- Skin cell repair supplements - lysine, topical Vitamin E
- Pain relief - lidocaine, benzocaine, cool compress
- Prevention - sunscreen, echinacea
Prescription-only cold sore medication is also available to people who experience these fever blisters. Pharmacologic treatments for cold sores involve medicines designed to treat viral infections. These are classified as antiviral medications (Note: Topical treatments are marginally effective, at best.):
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex ®)— Valacyclovir treats outbreaks of cold sores. It can be used to help lessen the severity or stop the blisters from developing completely if used as soon as symptoms develop. It is typically one of the best cold sore treatment options.
- Acyclovir (Xerese ®, Zovirax ®)— Acyclovir can be prescribed as a topical ointment or as an oral medication. It can be used to help decrease the severity of outbreaks and reduce the risk of the virus spreading through the body and causing other infections.
- Famciclovir (Famvir ®)— Famciclovir is another oral antiviral medication that can treat cold sores. It can help cold sores heal faster, prevent new sores from forming, and decrease the pain associated with the sores.
- Penciclovir (Denavir ®)— Penciclovir is a cream used to decrease pain and itching of cold sores when used as soon as symptoms appear.
Before starting these cold sore medications, you should have a conversation with your healthcare provider to ensure the appropriate medication is prescribed for your situation.
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