10. Declare War on Cold Sores

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus, either Type 1 (this is most often the cause) or Type 2 (the usual cause of genital herpes). The viruses are very contagious and are spread by direct skin-to-skin contact (e.g., kissing, oral sex, etc.) with an infected person. Cold sores are small red blisters with pus-filled centers. A tingly feeling on or near the lips may be present 36 to 48 hours before the sore(s) appear. The blister(s) form a yellow crust that last about 8 days. The virus lies dormant indefinitely in the nerves near the infected skin area. After the first episode, certain triggers can cause recurrent outbreaks. These triggers include: Menstrual periods, colds, dental work, eczema, a fever, strong sun exposure, and stress.

To help prevent or spread cold sores:

  1. Ask your doctor about an over-the-counter or prescribed antiviral medicine to apply or take when you feel a cold sore coming on.

  2. Do your best to manage emotional and physical stress.

  3. Limit exposure to the sun. When in the sun, wear a hat and use a sun block with a sun-protective factor (SPF) of 15 or more on the lips. Use a lip balm on cold and windy days.

  4. Avoid contact with anyone who has an active cold sore. Don’t share drinking glasses, etc.

  5. Wash your hands often while the virus is active to prevent it from spreading.

To relieve cold sores:

  1. Apply a prescribed antiviral medication, such as penciclovir cream (brand name Denavir) or an over-the-counter antiviral cream, such as docosanel (brand name Abreva) to the affected area at the first sign of a cold sore. Use as directed by your doctor.

  2. Try an over-the-counter treatment, such as petroleum jelly, aloe vera, or brand name products like Blistex. Dab some on with a cotton swab.

  3. Apply ice to the sore. Suck on a frozen popsicle.

  4. Avoid sour, spicy, and acidic foods. These may irritate the sore.

  5. Don’t scratch or pick at the sore.

  6. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, as directed.

  7. Apply cold compresses when the sores have crusted over.

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems