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Cold sores are a highly contagious skin condition which affects a huge proportion of the population. In fact, some studies estimate the proportion of the population that suffers with cold sores to be about 80%.
While they don’t cause any medical problems so to speak, the periodic appearance of small, fluid filled blisters on the lips and mouth can really damage a person’s self esteem.
This condition can be spread incredibly easily through oral sex, kissing, sharing of eating utensils and drinks, and pretty much any other physical contact. People with weakened immune systems are much more likely to catch the virus. This includes small babies, pregnant women and the elderly.
Cold sores, also known as genital herpes, fever blisters and canker sores, are caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are several strains of this virus, two of which can cause cold sores. Both herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 can cause cold sores.
However, the virus which is associated with cold sores is known as herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1. There is still no known cure for the herpes virus. This is because of the way the virus itself attaches to cells within the body. Scientists are still trying to find a way to kill the virus, without killing the cell too.
Because there is no cure, HSV-1 is a lifelong condition. However, there is good news. In the vast majority of cases the effects of the virus will soften over time. Cold sore outbreaks will occur less often, and when they do it will be with less severity.
Cold sores go through a number of stages, from the first sign of an outbreak to the moment it is fully healed. Anyone who suffers from cold sores should understand these stages, and how to treat each, as this can significantly aid the healing process and minimize the pain and discomfort involved.
Stage 1 (Tingling) – Also known as the tingling stage, this usually begins a day or two before the cold sore appears. The patient will feel a tingling or itching sensation in the area of skin where the sore will appear.
Stage 2 (Fluid Build Up/Blister) – This stage begins when the cold sore appears. A small, fluid filled blister will develop on the lips or near the mouth. During this stage it’s extremely important to leave the blister alone.
You may be tempted to burst it yourself, thinking that it will speed the process along, but this is the last thing you should do, whether you have a cold sore, herpes in the genital area, or blisters on any other part of your body.
Stage 3 (Burst Blister) – After a couple of days, the blister will burst on its own and ooze fluid. When this happens, the priority should be to keep the open sore clean. You can do this by washing it very gently with warm water a couple of times a day, and dabbing it with an antibacterial such as tea tree oil. This will help to prevent an infection taking hold in the sore. Otherwise, you should resist the urge to touch it and leave it be.
Stage 4 (Scabbing) – A crusty scab will begin to form over the cold sore a day or two after it has burst, if it has been left alone and not interfered with. When the scab forms, it’s important to leave it alone and not pick at it at all. Removing the scab yourself will only slow the healing process down.
Stage 5 (Fully Healed) – Finally, the scab will fall off on it’s own, revealing fully healed skin underneath.
Understanding these 5 stages can make it a lot easier for you to treat your cold sore. By simply letting your body do its thing and allowing the natural healing process to take place in its own time, you could be surprised by how much more quickly it heals.
However, there are some things you can do to speed this process up.
One of the upsides to cold sores being such a common complaint these days is the fact that a vast number of treatments have been specifically designed and created to treat them. Depending on the severity of your cold sore, one form of treatment may be more suitable than another.
There are so many drug store treatments that are available over the counter today. These include ointments, sprays, lip balms and more. Their efficacy varies quite significantly, so if you’re considering using one it’s best to check out reviews online first to avoid wasting your money.
Sometimes, in the case of very severe cold sore outbreaks, medication is needed. A doctor will often prescribe antiviral medication to a patient presenting with a bad cold sore. This medication is generally very effective. However, they can cause some side effects such as:
In recent years, increasing numbers of people are turning to home/herbal remedies instead of the more widely used pharmaceuticals. Home remedies have a lot of advantages. They are usually much better value for money, they are readily available without prescriptions or time consuming doctors visits, and they have comparatively low risks of side effects.
If you’re someone who develops cold sores and these advantages sound appealing to you, here are the 5 most popular home remedies for cold sores:
The virus that causes cold sores is one of the easiest viruses to spread, so if you are someone who suffers from cold sores it’s essential that you do what you can to avoid spreading it. Washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face, and not sharing things like cutlery, makeup brushes and drinks straws can go a long way towards achieving this goal.