Cold sores are unsightly, painful and embarrassing – and also something the majority of the population has had to deal with in one form or another. What most people may not realize is that cold sores are, in fact, herpes of the mouth – or herpes labials. Cold sores, also commonly referred to as fever blisters, are small wounds, blisters or lesions on the face or inside the mouth. Cold sores usually cause pain, burning, or itching before bursting and crusting over. Cold sores most commonly appear on the lips, chin, cheeks, inside the nostrils, and rarely is the gum or palate -the roof of the mouth.
WHAT IS A COLD SORE?
The cold sores are caused by herpes simplex – the most common cause of ulcers around the mouth is herpes simplex type 1 or HSV-1. Much less commonly known are cold sores caused by HSV-2 (herpes simplex type 2), which may result from oral sex with a person who has genitalherpes.
Cold sores are different from canker sores, however, people sometimes mistakenly associate them with each other. A canker sore is a small crater on the inside of the mouth and it is often very painful and are also known as thrush. Canker sores occur in the soft tissues of the mouth where cold sores do not appear.
Cold sores are very common, appearing in approximately 80% of the population. There is no cure or prevention of infected people, but you can take steps to reduce their frequency and duration.
WHAT CAUSES COLD SORES?
Most cold sores are the result of infection with HSV-1 (herpes simplex 1). HSV-2 herpes usually occur because of having oral sex with a person who has genital herpes and it is a much less common cause of cold sore outbreaks.
HSV-1 is also generally in early childhood when a child is kissed by someone with a cold sore or when two people share utensils, towels, razors or toothbrushes transmitting the infection from one person to another. The virus them makes its way to the nerves and lies dormant until some trigger subsequent activation.
The following are known to trigger potentially enable the virus:
- Mental stress – being under too much pressure
- Sadness or anger
- An injury to the affected area – getting hit
- A females menstrual cycle
- Intense sunlight and over exposure to weather – both severe heat and cold
COLD SORE TREATMENTS:
There are a variety of treatments available for the treatment of cold sores, and most have proven affective, however, every treatment will react different depending on the person, so if you are not finding the results that you need from a particular treatment, simply try a different treatment and you should see some relief from the pain and discomfort as well as the size of your cold sore subsiding. Most outbreaks of cold sores will clear up within one to two weeks without treatment. Some of the ointments and antiviral drugs may be slightly shorten the duration of the epidemic and to relieve discomfort and pain.
- Ice – used to numb the pain as well as clear up the cold sore. The lower temperature of the ice inhibits the cold sore from growing and spreading further.
- Warm tea bags – apply to the infected area every hour or two. Tea has a substance referred to as tannic acid in it, which has antiviral properties found in it and are a great at home remedy for treating cold sores. This treatment is most effective when used at the onset of your symptoms.
- Petroleum jelly and other chap-stick can help soothe and comfort the infected area.
What are the treatments for cold sores?
- Over the counter (OTC) Antivirals – antiviral cold sore creams antivirals can reduce recurrent infections if used properly. They are only effective if applied as soon as symptoms appear.
- Painkillers – Ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) may help relieve pain and swelling.
If the patient is a child it is important to ask a pharmacist for the proper dosage and children may be better off with a drug that comes in a liquid form. If the patient has asthma, or an ulcer, they should not take ibuprofen and any person under the age of 16 should not take aspirin.