Treating that Socially Inhibiting Cold Sore

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Monday 11th October 2010
In this article
  • What is a cold sore?
  • Preventing the breakout of a cold sore.
  • Treating the cold sore.
Treating that Socially Inhibiting Cold Sore

You know what a cold sore is. It's a neon sign bulging from your lip that's drawing all eyes to your mouth. Well, OK, not really, but it seems that way, doesn't it? When you have an ugly, throbbing blister on your lip, it's easy to imagine that nobody can look at you without seeing it and thinking about it, because it definitely is all you can think about.

One out of every five Americans gets cold sores. They are painful, itchy, uncomfortable and unsightly. But the pain inflicted on your mouth is nothing compared to the hurt your ego and confidence suffers. So check out these tips for taming the beast:

What Is a Cold Sore?

Cold sores, often called fever blisters, are caused by a common, contagious viral infection called herpes one. The infection causes blisters on the lips, occasionally on the gums and around the mouth area. The blisters fill with fluid, dry up and then disappear. If left untreated, a cold sore will take anywhere from four to ten days to clear up. However, the virus remains in your system, often lying dormant for awhile before another cold sore appears.

Stress, having a cold, flu, sunburn, or coming in contact with someone who has an active cold sore can all cause the breakout of the blisters. That’s when your battle to get rid of the sore begins…

Preventing the Breakout of the Cold Sore

Obviously, your ideal solution is to arrest the breakout of a blister before it reaches the skin surface. Often this is possible if you are able to treat your lips in time.

How do you do this most effectively?

Begin by identifying the early symptoms. Most cold sore sufferers will feel a tingling, burning or itching sensation in the area on or around their lips. Once a SharpMan has experienced this feeling, he is likely to easily identify it prior to the following breakout.

Avoiding infection. Initial infection usually occurs when a SharpMan comes into contact with a person who is already infected with the virus. For this reason, SharpMen should avoid kissing or otherwise coming into contact with a person who has an active blister. Also avoid drinking from the same glass or using the same towel as someone with a visible sore. Note that while highly contagious, particularly at the early stage of the sore, infection is unlikely to be spread in the absence of a visible breakout.

Avoiding breakouts after infection. Once a SharpMan has been infected, as with other forms of illness, the frequency and severity of his breakouts largely depend on his stress level. By learning to manage their reaction to stressful situations, many SharpMen are able to inhibit breakouts or even control the beginnings of a breakout. Some physicians advise closing your eyes, breathing slowly and deeply and envisioning your blister shrinking back into your skin. Kind of like the way Bill Bixby used to try to control turning into Lou Ferrigno in the Incredible Hulk — but better.

Quite often, a cold sore breakout will be the result of exposure to the sun. If you notice the development of cold sores after you’ve spent time outdoors, make a habit of wearing a lip balm with SPF 15 at all times. The same is true of exposure to the wind, so use the lip protection throughout the year.

If you apply a good treatment cream at this stage, you may prevent the blisters from breaking out. Over-the-counter creams and ointments are available, but those that are most effective are available only by prescription. One product, Zovirax™, comes in ointment and pill form and has been proven to be highly affective at preventing surfacing and treating an existing blister.

In addition to prescription medications, many doctors also recommend taking small doses of the pill form of L-Lysine when the SharpManfirst feels the itching and burning, or to help treat a visible blister.

Treating the Cold Sore

If your efforts to prevent the sore have proven futile, the correct treatment can speed up the healing process significantly. At the very least, you'll want to reduce the discomfort as much as possible.

Reducing pain. You can minimize discomfort by drinking cold drinks and avoiding spicy or salty foods. Placing an ice cube against the cold sore during the first 24 hours of a breakout can prevent swelling of the lip.

Avoiding spreading or re-infection. The advice not to scratch or pick at the sore cannot be overstressed. If you do, you will likely agitate the wound so that it lasts longer or cause the infection to spread to other areas of lips or mouth.

If you do touch your sore, refrain from touching your eyes (!) and face, and promptly wash your hands. During and after your infection, try to change your towel, washcloth and pillowcase to avoid further spread and recurrent breakouts.

Aiding the healing. Of course, there are a myriad of creams on the market to assist you in the care of your cold sore.

Viractin® Cold Sore & Fever Blister Treatment is an over-the-counter cream aiming to treat the symptoms of cold sores and ease the pain and itching.

Denavir and Zovirax™ are two of the more popular topical treatments. Debavir works by blocking the virus that causes the sore and was endorsed in the May 7th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association as "speeding the healing process." Both Denavir and Zovirax are available only by prescription.

An alternative to creams is prescription oral drugs. As outlined in the prevention section above, many doctors recommend talking prescription pills in conjunction with your topical (cream) treatment of the cold sore. Of these, Famvir, Valtrex, Zovirax™ and Acyclovir are all popular, and your physician can help you decide which is best for your condition.

Remember, while there is no definitive cure for cold sores, it is possible to prevent and effectively treat your sore and discomfort — and get yourself back into the social scene — more quickly once you know the facts.

This article last updated on Wednesday 13th October 2010
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