Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus and are contagious. Generally signs and symptoms of cold sores are seen after twenty days of exposure to the virus. Cold sores begin with tingling near the mouth, followed by a cluster of small, painful blisters; there may be fever, sore throat, or swollen lymph glands. These sores burst and crust over, but normally heal within about 10 days. Triggers such as colds and flu, fatigue, stress, menstruation, cold, wind, or strong sunshine can reactivate the virus, causing another cold sore.
Cold Sore Symptoms
- An itchy, tingling sensation.
- Small blisters around or on the lips, inside the mouth, around the nose, and sometimes elsewhere on the face
- Blisters filled with yellow liquid that feel hot and itchy and eventually burst.
- Small blisters which burst, leaves shallow open sores that will ooze fluid and then crust over.
- Tenderness and pain in the affected area.
- Some people experience fever, headache, sore throat, muscle aches.
Home Remedies for Cold Sores
- Ice pack: As soon as you notice tingling, apply a small ice pack to the area, for about 5-10 minutes every half hour.
- Cold pack: Place a cool, wet towel on the sores three times a day for 20 minutes each time to help reduce redness and swelling.
- Vitamin E: Apply vitamin E oil to help reduce symptoms and provide relief from itching. Break a capsule and apply the liquid to the sore 3 to 4 times a week.
- Tea tree oil: Apply tea tree oil onto a cold sore, which may help the blisters dry out and heal more quickly due to its antimicrobial activity. Ensure you do not ingest tea tree oil as it is highly toxic.
- Tea bag: Apply a cold, damp tea bag for few minutes on the blisters, repeat several times a day.
- Aloe vera: Gently rub aloe vera gel on the sores. The regular application of aloe vera may decrease the formation of specific chemicals in the blood and increases the circulation to the affected area which helps it to heal.
- Licorice: Take licorice lozenge several times a day. It has an antiviral properties.
- Garlic: Take garlic capsules or tinctures or just eating more garlic are effective in preventing outbreaks due to its antimicrobial effects.
- Vinegar: Dip a cotton ball in any kind of vinegar and apply to the affected area, repeat several times a day.
As vinegar is acidic and viruses don’t do well in an acidic environment.
- Lemon balm: Apply lemon balm cream or ointment to the lip sores two or three times a day. It has an antiviral properties. The cream has also been found to reduce the healing time.
- Calendula: Apply calendula cream to soothe any soreness, tingling, or itchiness. The cream is an excellent skin salve and also has natural antiseptic properties.
- St. John’s wort: Apply an ointment or oil of St. John’s wort on the sores. Hypericin in St. John’s wort has antiviral properties that work against the herpes simplex virus.
Do’s for Cold Sores
- Wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading the virus.
- Eat lots of organic fruits and green leafy vegetables such as radish, celery, cabbage, watermelon.
- Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids which will boost immune system and decrease the duration of the infection.
- Eat yogurt that contains live acidophilus bacteria, which shows hinder the growth of the virus.
- Apply petroleum jelly after the sore has crusted over to prevent cracking or bleeding.
- Replace toothbrush after an outbreak.
- If stress or fatigue are triggers, get plenty of sleep, and try deep breathing exercise.
Don’ts for Cold Sores
- Don’t pick or squeeze sores.
- Avoid close contact and don’t share towels, cups, and glasses.
- Avoid prolonged exposure of your lips to sunlight.
- Avoid acidic, sweet and greasy foods which often trigger an outbreak. Also avoid tea, and coffee.
- Avoid foods high in high amino acid L-arginine which are supposed to stimulate herpes virus replication such as chocolate, almonds, peanuts, gelatin.
- Have frequent cold sores.
- Sore is getting worse, or is not getting better after about 10 days despite treatment.