Cold sores are the small blister like sores which usually appear on cheeks, lips, chins, on the gums, in the nostrils or around the mouth. They are normally itchy, painful and they cause a burning sensation. Caused by the herpes simplex virus, cold sores are actually a pretty common occurrence. Most commonly, cold sores are caused by herpes simplex type 1. There are however those less frequent ones caused by herpes simplex type 2 which results from having oral sex with a partner with genital herpes. Cold sores have no prevention or cure but there are a number of treatment methods to reduce their frequency and duration. Moreover, cold sores are known to clear out naturally in about 7-10 days.
Spread of Cold Sores
The cold sore virus, herpes simplex is highly contagious and can be very easily transmitted from person to person as a result of close contact. Once it enters your body, the virus remains dormant for a while until a trigger activates the virus. These triggers vary from person to person and this determines the number of cold sore outbreaks one may get annually, including their frequency. There are people who carry the virus for years and never get an outbreak while a good number of people have cold sores recurring twice or thrice a year.
Causes of Cold Sores
As mentioned above, cold sores are as a result of the virus, herpes simplex, both type 1 and 2. Type one is spread by close direct contact like kissing, sharing utensils or other personal items like razors and towels. Some known triggers for the inactive cold sore virus include:
• Injury to the affected area
• Intense sunlight
• Deep sadness or upset
• Mental stress
Treatment for Cold Sores
Cold sores usually clear up naturally in a week or two. However, you can also opt for ointments and antiviral medications as they can reduce the outbreak duration and minimize the irritation, discomfort and pain. Here are some additional types of medication which can be employed.
These are over-the-counter cold sore antiviral creams. They can reduce the duration of a recurrent cold sore when used properly. The most important active ingredients in these creams are acyclovir and penciclovir. For best results, these creams should be applied in the very early stages of the formation of the sore. The recommended application regiment is five times daily for 4-5 days.
Special care should be taken for patients with weakened immune systems for example HIV positive patients and those undergoing chemotherapy. Antiviral tablets are the best treatment options in such cases.
Additional treatments for cold sores
There are additional creams that can be used that do not contain antivirals. For very dry, itchy or painful cold sores, this may be helpful in alleviate some of the irritation. Examples of these include Blistex, Bonjela,or Cymex. These creams are to be gently dabbed onto the sores.