Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1. The cold sore virus is very similar to the virus that causes genital herpes. HSV-1 causes cold sores, while HSV-2 causes genital herpes, although in some cases, HSV-1 can cause genital herpes as well.
Having one type of the herpes virus doesn’t mean you also have the other version of the virus, however, it is easy to transmit the viral infection from one area of the body to another through direct or indirect contact, be it sexual contact or accidental contamination of an area with infected fluid from the sores.
Clusters of sores or blisters on one area of the lip is the most common symptoms of a herpes simplex 1 infection, otherwise known as cold sore. In rare cases you may also get other symptoms, like fever, body pains, or fatigue.
The skin around the blisters is typically sore and swollen, and the sores can also occur around other facial mucous membranes, like the nostrils or eyes (ocular herpes and “eyeball herpes” respectively).
Cold sores should not to be mistaken with canker sores, which typically appear on the inside of the mouth.
Herpes simplex 1 virus is easy to catch, and most people got infected with HSV-1 as children, through shared utensils for food or drink with a contagious carrier. Many people with the virus may never display an outbreak of lesions that physically indicate the presence of HSV-1.
Cold Sore Triggers
Cold sores can be triggered by a number of different factors, but most of them have to do with your body systems being negatively stressed in one way or the other.
Since viruses love to attack when your immunity is weak, the HSV-1 waits until you are challenged health wise, and then it strikes, leaving a painful reminder on your face. Some of the factors that triggers it include:
- Fever/Illness: Cold sores typically make their arrival when you are suffering from another viral infection, be it a cold or flu. HSV-1 loves a good fever.
- UV Rays: Bright sunlight can trigger many lip lesion that can result in outbreaks, so use plenty of lip balm at the highest concentration SPF that you can find and avoid staying under the sun for an extended period.
- Cold Weather: Cold, harsh weather can also wreak havoc on lip health, and once your lip cracks, HSV-1 is only happy to add salt to your injury. Keep your mouth covered in extremely cold, windy conditions.
- Stress: There is often no way to remove stressors from your life, but if you can find a way to stay calm and carry on, you can probably prevent a cold sore from breaking out. Deep breathing and meditation, coupled with exercises won’t take more than 15 minutes out of your day, and can lower your blood pressure too.
- Menstruation: Menstruation can be a trigger for some women with the virus, as it adds to their stress level. So it is important to anticipate the problem, and as your period approaches, make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat well, and stay hydrated.
- Injury to Delicate Facial Tissues: Damage to the delicate tissue of the lips and mouth are like an open invitation to HSV-1 outbreak.
How to Prevent a Cold Sore From Breaking Out
- Avoid Triggers as mentioned above
- Avoid kissing a person with a cold sore.
- Do not share personal items with an infected person.
- Always protect your face from the sun.
- Eat a balanced diet since your immune system can suffer if you aren’t getting adequate nutrition.
- Consume vitamins and minerals giving food/fruits to boost your immune system
- Keep your stress level down, because when your body is overtaxed, your immune system tend to suffer, and the herpes virus is more likely to manifest and show its ugly face. Get plenty of sleep, because rushing around all day takes a toll on the body’s systems. Do your best to have a sleep schedule that allows you to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily.
- Exercise regularly too. Exercising is a good stress reliever that can help you calm down during anxious times. It can also make you tired in a healthy way, leading to you sleeping better at night.
- Protect yourself during flu and cold season. Give special attention to your habits when the weather turns cold and illnesses start getting passed around, because getting the flu or a cold is a common trigger for cold sores
- Take care of yourself when your menstruation period approaches.
- Regularly change your toothbrush.
- Add supplementation to your diet: Give your immune system an extra boost by taking some high-quality dietary supplements on a regular basis, starting with a good multi-vitamins. Echinacea can also give a boost to the immune system, as well as Red Marine Algae. Siberian ginseng and licorice root are helpful with easing the effects of stress on the body.
Prescription Remedies for Cold Sores
Penciclovir Cream (Denavir)
Penciclovir is an antiviral cream. Apply a small amount directly to the sore from herpes outbreak, and be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation. The usual recommendation being, applying it every few hours for 4 days. Penciclovir has the ability to reduce the pain of cold sores and is designed to fasten healing time.
Aciclovir is available as an ointment or cream for treatment of cold sores, only by doctor’s prescription. Aciclovir cream is generally used directly on a sore by herpes 5 times a day for about 4 days.
Like most topical remedies, the aciclovir ointment can be applied 6 times daily for a full week, and it will help reduces pain and speeds healing of cold sores.
Valacyclovir Tablets (Valtrex)
Oral ingestion of valacyclovir tablet, taken under doctor’s supervision has proven to be effective at healing of cold sores and reducing the frequency of recurrence. It works best to speed up healing if you begin taking it at the first sign of a cold sore symptom.
Taking it consistently at the same times of the day and following your doctor’s instructions will help you maintain a constant level of medication in your body, which will help you combat HSV-1 breakout.
Famciclovir Tablets (Famvir)
Famciclovir can treat cold sores with just one dosage of it. The doctor will normally prescribe the appropriate dosage of famciclovir, which you will at once, and that is it.
Unfortunately, if your cold sores stays, you can’t take another dose for at least a week. In conclusion, famciclovir has some common side effects like headache, nausea, and diarrhea which can be quite uncomfortable.