What is a Cold Sore?
Cold sores are sores that appear around the mouth shortly after contracting the herpes simplex virus.
How do I get a Cold Sore?
The virus is usually spread from person to person by close contact. For example, kissing. A person is most contagious when the cold sore blisters break. The virus is contained within the fluid of the blisters.
How will I know its a Cold Sore?
Just before the cold sore appears, usually 24-48 hrs before, you will experience some tingling or discomfort in the area. This is a classic cold sore sign. When the cold sore breaks through you will start to see small fluid-filled blisters that are quite unsightly. These blisters will then burst to release the virus and the wound then scabs over before healing. The process usually takes about 10 days.
How do I treat a Cold Sore?
The best way to treat a cold sore is by using antiviral creams as soon as the tingle starts. Aciclovir cream, which is the same as Zovirax. This needs to be applied 5 times a day as soon as the tingle starts. So its always best to ensure you have a spare tube! If you leave the tingle, unfortunately, the virus will break out causing scabbing and blisters which will make you contagious. The cream is still useful at this stage as it will reduce the spread of the virus and speed up healing time.
Will a cold sore keep coming back?
Unfortunately, Yes. Just like other viral infections that hide in your nerves like chicken pox, once you have the cold sore virus, you cannot get rid of it! This means that you will always get cold sores, but there are some things you can do to prevent or minimise the risk.
What can I do to prevent Cold Sore outbreaks?
There a few simple tricks you can do to try and prevent cold sores appearing these include:
- Monitor for your personal triggers, this can include certain foods,
- Keeps stress levels under control. Eat well and ensure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- Lack of Sleep. Linked to stress but read our guide to sleep and eating.
- Exposure to the sun, UV light is a classic trigger. Use lip balms with UV protection.
- Damage to the skin.
- Hormonal changes, particularly around menstruation.
- A weakened immune system, for example, recovering from a recent virus.
What can't I do when I have a cold sore?
Cold sores are very contagious. If you have an active infection make sure you don't:
- Kiss anyone, the virus is spread by close personal contact
- Kiss babies. This can be very dangerous for the baby!
- Have Oral Sex. The virus that causes cold sores is also responsible for causing genital herpes.
- Share lipsticks, lip balms etc. If you happen to use one when you have an active infection then it is best to be thrown away so as to prevent further infections.
- Do not touch your cold sore, apart from when applying cream or patches. Always wash your hands afterwards.