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What to Do About Cold Sores

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When the sniffle season arrives, cold sores may accompany it. Cold sores, fever blisters or the more technical herpes labialis--regardless of the terminology, these red painful spots are unpleasant. The lesions usually crop up on the outer edge of the lips. They hurt and they look bad, often undermining the sufferer's confidence for the week or two they take to clear up.

A person with a cold sore has lots of company. An estimated 80 percent of adults carry the herpes simplex 1 virus in their bodies, and a majority probably acquired the infection in childhood through contact with an infected parent.

Once a person has the virus, she does not need to have a visible lesion to be shedding and therefore spreading it with a kiss. It does make sense to avoid direct contact with an active lesion. Don't share drinking glasses, spoons or toothbrushes with someone who has a cold sore.

Some people hardly ever have cold sores even though they carry the virus, while others suffer frequent outbreaks. The first sign is tingling or itching on the spot where the blister will appear. Medication and remedies work best if started during this initial ("prodrome") stage.

The popular names for this condition, cold sores and fever blisters, suggest some of the common triggers of recurrence. Colds, fevers, excessive sun or wind exposure, menstrual periods, surgery and extensive dental work have all been known to bring on an outbreak.

What can be done to treat a cold sore? Your health care provider could prescribe a topical cream, such as acyclovir (Zovirax), penciclovir (Denavir) or Xerese, a combination of acyclovir and hydrocortisone. There is also an over-the-counter cream called docosanol (Abreva).

Prescription pills include acyclovir, famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). Even the generic versions are a bit pricey, though, ranging from $1.50 to about $4 per pill.

As a result, some people prefer to use home remedies to treat cold sores when they appear. Ice may ease the discomfort: "As soon as I get that familiar tingling, I apply cold. Ice wrapped in a cloth or a package of frozen veggies pressed to the spot for about an hour or so takes the problem away. I also use lip balm with sun protection to prevent outbreaks."

Another favorite remedy is kiwi fruit: "This has been a total magic bullet for me. At first tingling, I eat two kiwis; then one a day until it disappears. If I eat a kiwi fruit once a week, I do not get cold sores."

We heard from a man whose pharmacist told him to drink buttermilk to avoid cold sores on the lips. He reported that it worked very well, and others also seem to find it helpful.

Probably the most popular cold sore remedy is l-lysine. Some readers report that taking 500 mg daily of this amino acid can prevent outbreaks, especially if they also avoid nuts and chocolate. L-lysine is being considered to prevent fever blisters in burn patients (Journal of Burn Care & Research, Nov-Dec, 2013).

Other approaches may include lemon balm ointment (Melissa officinalis) or the bee product propolis (Phytomedicine, Feb. 2010). Zinc oxide cream may also offer quicker healing of fever blisters (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, May-June, 2001).



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Boost your immune system with some good anti-oxidants and use L-Lysine for the prevention of active cold sores.

For me, the best option is to try to avoid cold sores in the first place. Mine are pretty predictable: over-eat grapefruit or oranges or tomatoes. But I love them, so what to do! I try to not over-eat them, but whenever I eat them I rinse my mouth well afterwards, and wash my lips and lower face well. Then I take baking soda and powder my lower face with it, and I drink a glass of milk or buttermilk and hold it in my mouth a bit before swallowing. I believe mine is caused by the acid in the fruit. It works and it is worth it.

As soon as I sense that familiar feeling, I immediately take a vitamin C and vitamin E. I pin prick another vitamin E, squeeze out some of the contents and rub it on the spot. An hour later, I repeat this process. It must be done before the cold sore actually erupts. I used to have cold sores frequently but by using this immediate action, I haven't had one in years.

Regarding cold sores. I usually don't notice my cold sores till erupted, but then my cold sores will heal very quickly if I simply cover them with Vaseline (petroleum jelly). They feel better too almost immediately so I'm thinking that the Vaseline works by cutting off the exposure to air. Anyway my experience is Vaseline is the best ever remedy for (erupted) cold sores (and for chapped lips).

I do take the 500 mg of Lysine each day now. I used to have very frequent cold sore outbreaks that left my mouth so swollen I could hardly eat. Taking the lysine has made a tremendous difference in my life. Today I also use a lysine ointment which I picked up years ago when Genovese was going out of business. Recently I picked up an ointment called Super Lysine in the drug store. I highly recommend the use of both.

I always used a Vitamin C tablet, not a capsule. I would moisten with tongue and hold it upon the sore. It burns a little, but not bad. A few applications and it is gone the next day. You may have scab, but no pain or redness will remain. The sooner treated the quicker the healing. Sometimes there is no scab or visible sign. It all depends on how long it was there before treated.

That approach is excellent, but remember that anything that stresses the immune system can potentially trigger a cold sore episode.

The Herpes 2 virus which permanently resides in the facial nerve bundle after initial exposure is subject to many kinds of triggers, resulting in episodic outbreaks.

As soon as I realize a cold sore is coming on, I apply Listerine either by rubbing it on the sore or by holding a cotton ball soaked in it on the sore. Depending on the size and discomfort, this may be repeated several times. By the next day, it is dried up.

An excellent approach for minimizing and, for preventing a cold sore outbreak. In addition, taking Lysine tablets, an amino acid can strengthen the immune system and can provide you with an additional tool to help you prevent future cold sore outbreaks, if needed.

Eventually, your immune system become strong enough against the virus to keep it at bay for years to come.

Understanding your body is key and recognizing when an outbreak is likely to occur will allow you to take appropriate preventative measures ahead of time in order to ward of the painful effects of a cold sore outbreak.

My Dad always used CAMPHOR SPIRIT on cold sores. I have used it too and it dries them out and sometimes prevents them from forming if you put it on the spot as soon as you feel that it is starting.

People's Pharmacy response: Be sure not to lick it or eat it. Camphor can be toxic when ingested.

Vaseline is still one of the best and most affordable protection for the lips. "Burt's Bees" (plain) that's available in a "chapstick" form, I've found is probably the best commercial product for lip protection that's available on the market today and can easily be carried with you on your person for use anytime that you need it.

There's also another product on the market that contains "Lysine" in it's ingredients that should work quite well as a preventative for cold sores.

That's a novel approach for treating cold sores.

Years ago a nurse recommended "Herpecin-L" in a "chapstick" form, which had "Bioflavanoids" (a form of vitamin c) in it's ingredients, which literally cured my frequent and very painful cold sore outbreaks for many years.

Now I just take a handful of L-Lysine tablets when I notice tenderness on my lips a sign of a coldsore outbreak, and I've never had a subsequent outbreak since, but you've got to be observant when a cold sore attack is eminent so that you can treat it ahead of time.

Usually a day or two advance warning is all that is necessary.

I learned a lot farm your answer to my comment. Tell me more. 'Herpes 2 Virus permanently resides in the facial NERVE bundle after exposure' ? No killing the virus, huh? Just live with it and play serious games with it. Very interesting. I sort of knew this happened, but you put it well. Thanks.

I guess the old adage from the 70's says it best:

Q. What's the difference between love and herpes?

Ans: Herpes lasts forever!

The Herpes Simplex Virus (which was once known as,"The Kissing Disease", which is why the "Roman Empire" of old prohibited kissing among their legions) and which some 80% of Americans carry, is what causes "cold sores" in the mouth.

Once the virus is initially contracted from an infected person or infected object, the virus travels to, and permanently resides in the trigeminal nerve of the facial cheek area, and reoccurs periodically, usually triggered by stress, certain types of spicy foods, sunlight or menstrual cycles in women, in episodic outbreaks.

The initial outbreak can be quite painful, unsightly, and lasts for 7-10 days.

Subsequent, outbreaks while still painful, will generally become less severe over the course of time.

Home remedies help alleviate the pain and discomfort and,help to shorten the duration of an outbreak.

"Abreva", which the mfr. initially wanted to market as an Rx item but, the FDA wouldn't allow them to do so, helps shorten duration of the outbreak by a couple of days, but I think that L-Lysine ,an over the counter supplement works best in the long run by bolstering your immune system.

L-Lysine is quite affordable and free of any side effects that I know of, as well as being a great way to boost the health of your overall immune system.

The home remedies mentioned on the People's Pharmacy Website by contributors to the site, are good for treating the symptoms of "Herpes Labialis", too.

Whatever, "works for you I say!"

Have fought cold sores/fever blisters all my life. Worked in several hospitals, and doctors as well as chief pharmacists recommended a variety of actions. What Finally worked was L-Lysine capsules. At the first tingle, I take a 1,000 (or two 500) mg capsules. If I miss that first sign, and the blisters have already started forming, I take 1000 mg capsule twice a day, morning and night. Within 48 hours, the blisters have totally receded, and NO SCAB is left behind. The skin is like new. My brother has had the same results since I convinced him to try it. I've also heard that people hit with Shingles find immediately taking 2 1000 mg capsules a day has a positive impact on the tingling/burning sensation quickly -- much quicker than just the typical prescription meds.

I had cold sores all the time but then I added 500mg L-Lysine to my vitamin that I take. I am 70 years old and have not had a cold sore in 30 years. If I do feel a warm spot on my lip I take an extra 500mg L-Lysine and the warm spot disappears.

Dab a little Spirits of Camphor on the spot as soon as you think a cold sore is coming. Stops the eruption in its tracks and very inexpensive. Just ask at the pharmacy for spirits of camphor.

besides using lysine orally for cold sores, I have successfully tried opening a few of the 500 mg capusules of lysine into a very small bowl, adding just a small amount of water, then with a q-tip dab it on the cold sore. The pain from the cold sore is alleviated and the cold sore heals much faster. This is best at night and when you do not have to go out in public with this white stuff on your lips!

Herpanges virus lives in the sheathing around nerves, and lies dormant until stress and a high concentration of L-Arginine, found in peanuts and chocolate, create the optimum bio-chemical environment necessary to produce maximum activity. A daily dosage of L-Lysine will significantly reduce this activity. I once had a chiropractor tell me that lysine would also reduce the symptoms of mononucleosis. I would also apply a daily dose of B Complex vitamins for a herpes outbreak. The key is to take lysine daily if you are susceptible. I offer this information from just my own personal experience.

I have the virus and have been using zovirax (generic) 500MG a day for years as prescribed by my Dr.. If I feel a blister coming on I'll take 2- 3 more per day. Haven't had a breakout since. It works. FWIW also had the shingles shot.

Excellent idea.
You can find Lysine commercially available in a lip balm, too.

At the first sign of fever sore (pain) moisten a zinc tablet and hold on site for 15 min. Reapply several times a day if necessary, but usually it isn't necessary.

I'm surprised I don't see B-6 here! pyridoxine. It works well, topically, on the cold sore. (which probably means a shortage of the B vitamins generally). You melt a tablet in water in a spoon, and dab it on. The results are immediate for everyone I have suggested it to. I can't remember where I learned the trick. Pain goes away and sore dries up and disappears. I think it works on "canker" sores too. myself I don't get them. I take B complex and some C daily.

I know this sounds weird but the first sign ur getting a cold sore (hot sensation/tingling) use preparation h. I started using it while I already had one and its almost gone in just one day! It was double the size it is now and I started it 7 hours ago.

Thirty years ago, a co-worker recommended Colgate toothpaste (the classic, white type). I get cold sores from the sun and when I eat too much fruit. If applied at the "tingle" stage, the Colgate stops it from developing further. If the cold sore is beyond that stage, mine are gone within two days. It has worked for me every time.

I have found that putting hydrogen peroxide on the spot as soon as I notice it two or three times in a couple of days puts a quick end to the sore. It will bubble and seems to go deeper to root out the germs, and that is the end of it.

I also have found the product Blistex to be very helpful, but I do not rub the applicator on my lips, rather, put the medication on a finger and rub it on, washing well after, of course. This seems to have some kind of painkiller in it as well if the blisters form because I didn't catch them soon enough. Hitting them with the peroxide seems to only work if done in the first few hours.

Since my 20s I had cold sores once a month or more. Every time I got my period, stress etc. About 3 years ago I started taking SAM-e & I have had 2 outbreaks. The 2nd outbreak I doubled the SAM-e. Highly recommend.

If I get a cold sore I know my body is lacking calcium. So I take extra calcium lactate. Works well and if I take the calcium lactate regularly I don't get them at all.

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