A cold sore is the formation of red, painful bubble-like eruption, filled with fluid and caused due to a common virus named herpes simplex. The blisters generally occur near the lips, mouth or on areas close to the face but in rare cases, it can spread to your fingers, nose, neck or inside of the mouth. These small blisters usually appear clumped together in patches or can join to form one big nasty blister. It usually takes a week or two to heal completely. This infection can transfer from one person to another through close contact. The cold sore virus cannot be entirely eliminated from your body and therefore, it may return without warning and lead to severe discomfort.
Reasons for Cold Sores
- Cold, flu or fever
- Extreme sun and wind exposure
- Stress and exhaustion
- Weak immunity system
- Hormonal changes (during menstruation in women)
Cold Sores Symptoms
- A painful, burning and itchy sensation in the area around your lips
- Formation of sore blisters on your lips, cheeks, mouth, nose and throat
- These red small fluid-filled blisters may even come together and result in one large painful blister
- Swollen lymph nodes around the neck
- Fever and muscle ache
When Should We Seek Medical Help?
There are a couple of cold sore stages and the symptoms of the initial attack are considered the most severe. When you experience cold sores for the first time, it is accompanied with fever, swollen glands, bleeding gums and several painful blisters around the mouth and nose. Usually, people acquire the virus during their childhood and it heals within two to six weeks. It is recommended to seek medical help if the outbreak turns serious as it can further lead to difficulty in eating and drinking if the sores are left untreated. Medical attention isn’t necessarily needed for recurrent cold sores as takes less time to heal. In case you are prone to cold sores, the doctor might prescribe daily medication to get rid of a cold sore overnight.
Diagnosis of Cold Sores
In most scenarios, there is not any need for a laboratory test to verify cold sores as it can be usually identified by the appearance of the fluid-filled blisters. Canker sores are sometimes mistaken with cold sores but unlike cold sores, they develop inside the mouth and not on the lips. In order to confirm the diagnosis of cold sores, you can opt for viral culture and polymerase chain reaction. You need to perform these tests on an active blister, preferably after the first 24 to 48 hours of its eruption.
Prevention of Cold Sores
- Make sure you aren’t suffering from the lack of vitamin E. Include vitamin E-rich foods in your diets such as nuts, whole wheat, and leafy greens vegetables as it will help to repair damaged skin cells and encourage the regeneration of new ones. You can also consume vitamin E supplements or use vitamin E oils that are available in the market.
- White cells are the body’s primary infection-fighting cells and help to prevent viral and bacterial infections. Foods enriched with vitamin C such as lemons, berries, tomatoes, peppers, kiwis, broccoli, and spinach can boost the levels of white cells in your body.
- Avoid sharing toothbrushes, silverware or glasses with an infected person.
- Wear warm woollens and use proper protective gears during winter if you are prone to cold sores at that particular period of the year.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or more before sun exposure as it can help to reduce further outbreaks if the sun is a precipitating factor. Also, apply sunscreen-containing lip balms and always keep your body hydrated.
- Keep yourself clean and hygienic to prevent the spread the cold sores.
Natural Home Remedies for Cold Sores
- For temporary relief from pain, you can wrap a few ice cubes in a soft towel or cloth and apply it on a cold sore for 20-25 seconds. Repeat the process for 5 to 6 minutes to treat cold sores. If your skin is not sensitive to ice, you can also press an ice cube directly on the cold sore to soothe inflammation by reducing blood flow to the area.
- Make sure to use creams, ointments, or lip balms that contain lemon extracts on your affected skin throughout the day. Alternatively, you can soak a cotton ball in a diluted lemon essential oil solution and place it on your blisters for a couple of minutes.
- For cold sore treatment, you can apply aloe vera gel to get relief from inflamed sores and keep the affected area well moisturised.
- Prepare a concoction by mixing peppermint essential oil, mint extracts, and witch hazel oil together. Apply the mixture onto your sores to heal them.
- Liquorice root is an effective cold sore cure due to the presence of glycyrrhizic acid, which is antiviral in nature. You can mix liquorice powder with water or petroleum jelly and apply it directly on your sores. Diluting liquorice extract with coconut or almond oil and dabbing it on the affected areas using a cotton swab can also treat cold sores.
- Take a few drops of diluted tea tree oil or oregano oil and apply on the affected area using your fingers or a cotton ball. Hold it on as long as it feels comfortable, and repeat the process several times throughout the day. Continue following this remedy until the blisters disappear completely.
- Apple cider vinegar contains anti-infective and antifungal properties that are effectual in cold sore treatment. Dilute apple cider vinegar with water and soak a cotton ball in the solution. Dab the cotton ball on your cold sores for few minutes and repeat the process until your skin condition improves.
- Prepare a paste using equal proportions of milk and corn-starch. Apply a thin layer of the paste on your affected skin and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with normal water and pat the area dry. Continue the remedy twice a day to cure cold sores.
Also Read Causes and Remedies for Eczema.