Cold Sore Home Remedies And Treatments
Its the season of unsightly cold sores, but theres help available. As well as over-the-counter treatments, we suggest you try these natural cold sore remedies at home.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus , which is passed on through touch most commonly kissing.
Seven in 10 people in Britain are infected by either HSV1 or HSV2 but only one in four of those will notice cold sore symptoms. Once you have the virus, you cant get rid of it. It will lay dormant in your skin, and youll experience a cold sore break out when youre feeling run down or and vulnerable to colds and flu symptoms.
These painful sores usually last between 7 and 10 days and are most common in the winter months.
Winter temperatures and harsh winds tend to dry out the lips. This can lead to reactivation of the herpes simplex virus the cause of cold sores, says Dr Anjali Mahto of the British Association of Dermatologists. A lack of vitamin D, which is a common problem during darker and colder months, can also weaken the immune system and result in more frequent outbreaks, she explains, so its worth taking a vitamin D supplement as a preventative. Other triggers include sunshine, stress, injury to the area and hormonal changes.
Can Herpes Sores Last For Months
Symptoms may last several weeks and go away. They may return in weeks, months, or years. A doctor or nurse can tell you if the sores are caused by herpes by looking at them or by testing fluid from the sores. The thing is, many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
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How To Prevent The Spread Of Oral Herpes
A cold sore is highly contagious and can spread to other parts of the body or to other people. Herpes transmission can occur through direct contact, such as kissing, or indirect contact from shared items, such as infected drinking glasses, towels, or utensils.
The herpes simplex virus type 1the virus responsible for cold sorescan be spread to the genitals of both men and women through oral sex. If this happens, it becomes a case of genital herpes.
Although the virus can be transmitted from person to person at any time, the most acute infection period is when the sores are visible. Once the sores have crusted over, oral herpes is no longer contagious.
Follow these tips to keep the infection from spreading:
- Wash your hands immediately after touching the sores or before touching another person.
- Abstain from intimate contact until the sores have dried and scabs have formed.
- Do not share utensils, drinking glasses, napkins or other items that may have been in contact with a cold sore.
- Do not touch, rub or scratch sores.
- Do not touch your genitals or eyes after touching a cold sore the cornea is extremely sensitive to infection from the herpes virus.
- Stay away from people for whom a herpes outbreak could have serious consequences .
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Cold Sore Home Remedies
When you have a cold sore, you want to act on it quickly. You may end up trying cold sore home remedies that friends, family or health websites recommend but you may find that these arent clinically proven. Some remedies may offer only temporary symptom relief, while others may have the potential to make the cold sore worse. With lots of anecdotal evidence out there, lets unpack what some natural remedies for cold sores can do to help with symptoms, and whether or not they may be effective.
Is It A Cold Sore Or A Fever Blister
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Imagine this: You and your mother are having a heated discussion about whether the sudden appearance of a sore on your lip is a fever blister or a cold sore. You know you can win this battle, and you respond with an Ill-show-you retort: âLetâs ask Mr. Google,â you say. Both of you whip out your smart phones, and â¦a family crisis is averted. It turns out youre both right, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Case in point, this annoying sore is known by both names, and is caused by the virus âherpes simplex,â or oral herpes .
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Facts And Statistics About Herpes
- According to the World Health Organization, an estimated two-thirds of the global population under 50 years old are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 .
- Estimates for HSV-1 prevalence in the U.S. among people aged 049 years are 178 million women and 142 million men .
- In total, about 75 percent or more of the American adult population has the HSV-1 virus that usually causes oral herpes , and about 20 percent to 30 percent have HSV-2 that usually causes genital herpes.
- Men and women are affected by HSV-1 about equally. Roughly 6 million women in the U.S. become infected with HSV-1 each year, along with 5 million men.
- Slightly more women than men are affected by genital herpes, whether from HSV-1 or HSV-2. Middle-aged women are most likely to acquire genital herpes.
- Transmission of HSV most often occurs without symptoms, so its estimated that 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont know it. Many dont have any symptoms at all after the initial infection, and only about 15 percent ever receive a HSV-2 infection diagnosis in their lifetimes.
- Most primary oral/facial HSV infections are caused by HSV-1 however, facial infection by HSV-2 is increasingly becoming common.
- Less children are becoming infected with HSV-1 than in the past in high-income countries, mostly due to better hygiene and living conditions.
- After someone comes into contact with an active herpes outbreak on another person, the incubation period takes about one week.
What To Look Out For
âGenital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.ââDr Zenon Andreou
âGenital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.â
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What Happens If You Dont Get Herpes Treatment
The good news about herpes is that its not deadly or even very dangerous. It might be annoying, but herpes doesnt get worse over time or cause serious health problems like other STDs can.
If you dont get treated for herpes, you might keep having regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while.
There are a few reasons people may decide not to get treatment. They might not have that many outbreaks, or their outbreaks dont really bother them. Or maybe theyre not having sex, so theyre not that worried about having herpes right now. Whatever your situation is, getting treatment for herpes is your choice.
Is There A Permanent Cure For Cold Sores
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for cold sores right now. But thats not to say that researchers arent working hard to find a cure. Recent developments suggest that there could be a vaccine for HSV on the way.
- Harvey M. Friedman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been working on a cure for the virus for more than twenty years. He and his colleagues now believe they have found a way to help the body make the antibodies to fight off HSV, as well as keeping the virus from evading those antibodies, which it does so well.
- The vaccine has been tested on macaque monkeys, whose immune systems are very similar to humans. It was also tested on guinea pigs, who exhibit the same symptoms as humans when infected with HSV. The results were very positive, eliminating the virus from these two animals with minimal side-effects.
- But of course, before a vaccine can be brought onto the market, it needs to be tested on humans. Theres no current date for the human trials, but if they prove successful, the vaccine could provide a viable cure within a decade.
Another interesting treatment which will soon be available is Sitavig a medication which has already been clinically tested. This drug, which contains acyclovir can reduce the amount of the virus thats being carried in the body over time.
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Can I Get Tested For Genital Herpes
Yes, if you think you have symptoms of genital herpes or have been at risk of infection, you should speak to a healthcare worker.
There are different tests available. If you have symptoms, the most common test is to take a swab from a blister. The fluid can be tested for the herpes simplex virus.Some places may also offer blood tests to check for antibodies to the virus, but these are often not routinely available, so ask a healthcare worker if youre unsure.
If you have genital herpes you should be tested for other STIs.
Its also advised that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have genital herpes do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on.
What Does Herpes On The Tongue Look Like
The infection may manifest starting with small, shallow, gray-colored ulcers with a red base. Thereafter, they turn into crusted, scabbed, dry and yellow blisters. For some serious cases, a grayish coating on the tonsils may appear and the patient may also experience a sore throat with shallow ulcers.
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Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
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Dos And Donts For Faster Cold Sore Healing
Speeding up the cold sore healing process through medication like valacyclovir is only one side of the equation. The other, which is equally important, is making sure you dont slow accidentally down the healing process by making common cold sore mistakes:
Dont try to pop a cold sore as if it were a pimple. This just damages your skin and gives the virus fluid a chance to spread throughout your lips and mouth, increasing the risk of other cold sores developing.
The best approach is to leave your cold sore alone and let it heal, or use a cold sore patch from your local pharmacy to cover it up without breaking it open.
Dont touch a cold sore . The fluid from cold sores may spread to other parts of your body, making it possible to spread cold sores to your genitals or fingers through contact.
Dont have oral sex if you have a cold sore. Having oral sex with an open cold sore significantly increases your risk of transmitting genital herpes to your partner, making it best to avoid oral sex until the cold sore is healed.
Dont aggressively wash the cold sore with soap or facial wash. Oral herpes isnt caused by dirty skin or lips, meaning most soaps wont be effective.
Dont use more than the recommended dose of valacyclovir. A higher dose doesnt necessarily mean faster healing. Follow the dosage provided by your doctor for reliable, safe cold sore recovery.
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Expect The First Outbreak To Be The Worst
Remember that although herpes lasts a lifetime, the first outbreak typically causes the most pain, while later outbreaks tend to be much milder.
You will always have herpes, and the sores will come and go, but you can decide not to treat the current outbreak. If its not that unpleasant or uncomfortable, some patients will do that, says Gade.
When Youre Triggered
Theres no good time to get a cold sore, in fact they always seem to appear at the worst possible times. This is especially true when you are stressed or exhausted, such as during a wedding, job interview, or other special life event. Stress can impact your hormones and immune system, which both play a large role in keeping cold sores at bay.
Because the virus lives in the nerve cells, it can sense the slightest changes in the body, including temperature, stress levels, immune strength, and pH balance. When the conditions are just right, the virus will attack. Although your body will naturally get rid of the infection caused by the virus, it will need some help in order to heal more quickly and effectively.
The cold sore virus needs three key conditions to successfully replicate:
- Plenty of Arginine, which is found in nuts, seeds, grains, and chocolate.
- A warm, moist atmosphere
- An acidic environment, which can happen when your bodys pH changes
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What Is Herpes
Herpes, whether on the mouth or genitals, is caused by a family of over 70 related viruses. These viral infections cause small, fluid-filled blisters to develop on the skin and mucous membranes. There are actually eight different types of herpes simplex viruses that both children and adults can acquire, but two are by far the most common: HSV-1 and HSV-2.
The most common reason that people develop cold sores on their mouths is due to becoming infected with HSV-1. HSV-1 usually causes cold sore breakouts around the lips or mouth, or what some people describe as fever blisters. Someone can become infected with HSV-1 starting as a child, and then the virus can lay dormant in the body until the immune system is weakened, at which point symptoms can surface.
HSV-2 is commonly referred to as genital herpes because it usually causes cold sores to erupt around the genitalia. In fact, genital herpes is the No. 1 cause of genital ulcers worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , and affects up to 1 in 3 adults . Both types of herpes viruses are highly contagious, and both can cause cold sores in either area of the body .
What Not To Do
When you have a cold sore, its very tempting to touch it or pick at it. Try to resist the temptation to do these things, which may inhibit the healing process:
- Touch an open sore. Anytime you touch the open blister and dont wash your hands immediately afterward, you risk spreading the virus from your hands to someone else. Also, you could introduce bacteria from your hands into the sore if you poke or prod at it.
- Attempt to pop the sore. A cold sore isnt a pimple. If you squeeze it or try to pop it, it wont make it smaller. You may just squeeze viral fluid out and onto your skin. You may unintentionally spread the virus to someone else.
- Pick at the scab. You may find yourself picking at the scab without even realizing youre doing it. But try to keep your hands off it as much as you can. The scab will last a few days and then disappear on its own. If you pick at it, it might leave a scar.
- Aggressively wash. It would be great if you could just wash a cold sore away, but unfortunately, a vigorous scrubbing will just irritate your already fragile skin.
- Have oral sex. If you still have a blister, its best to avoid intimate contact with your partner that involves your mouth. Wait until it clears up before you resume sexual activity.
- Eat acidic food. Food thats high in acid, like citrus fruit and tomatoes, can cause a burning sensation when they come into contact with a cold sore. You might want to avoid them and opt for blander fare for a few days.
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What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
How To Get Rid Of Herpes The Conventional Way
For most people with herpes, the virus typically represents nothing more than an inconvenience however, the real risk is for immuno-compromised patients who cant easily manage infections. In these patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex infection is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
As of 2017, there is not currently a herpes vaccine available to prevent HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to help keep the herpes virus suppressed or to speed up healing of cold sores by reducing bacteria that can cause infections. Some medications that are now used to control herpes include:
- Nucleoside analogues and antiviral medications
- Creams/ointment to help lower pain and inflammation near the site of sores
- Over-the-counter painkillers to reduce aches, tenderness or fever
However, its important to understand that even with early detection and prescription medications, either form of the herpes virus cannot be totally cured so transmission is always still possible. Medications for viruses dont always work long term and are not a cure-all.
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