6 Effective Home Remedies for Cold Sores
If you’ve ever experienced a bout of a cold sore, you will be able to identify the signs. The symptoms of cold sores begin with the tingling, then the corner of your mouth or the edge of your lip begins to burn. Finally, the outbreak: an ugly sore surfaces. It breaks open a few days later and crusts over. However, it should disappear within 2-4 weeks.
Cold sores, or fever blisters, are caused by a virus that has no cure. So when you feel one begins to develop, you want to get rid of it fast. But you most probably need no doctor. Instead, you can do some basic and simple things at home to relieve the pain and make cold sores look nicer as they heal – anything from using aloe vera or ice to pain medication from your medicine cabinet.
You will learn the following from this post:
- Meaning of cold sores
- Symptoms of cold sores
- Causes of cold sores
- Risk factors associated with cold sores
- Complications associated with cold sores
- Prevention of cold sores
- Conventional treatment for cold sores
- Diagnosing cold sores
- Natural remedies for cold sores
- What not to do with a cold sore
What are Cold Sores?
A cold sore is a collection of tiny, painful blisters that are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). They are also known as herpes simplex labialis or fever sores. About ninety percent of people worldwide have at least a form of HSV. The symptoms of a cold sore are usually most severe the first time you experience cold sores. A first-time cold sore can cause serious illness to a child. After the first outbreak, your body should be able to make antibodies, and you may never experience another infection. But many people have recurring cold sores.
Symptoms of Cold Sore
Cold sores are most likely to appear on the outside of your lips and mouth, but they can also appear on your cheeks and nose. You may experience cold sores as late as 20 days after being infected. The sore might seem close to where the virus entered your body.
Cold sores occur in stages:
- First, you have an itching, burning, or tingling feeling.
- About 12 hours or a day after the first symptoms, blisters begin to form. The area becomes painful, swollen, and red.
- The blisters open up, and fluid seeps out. This usually lasts 2 to 3 days.
- A scab forms on the sore. It might bleed or crack.
- The scab falls off.
You might also experience swollen or red gums, fever, muscle aches, or swollen glands in your neck.
First-time infection can also result in:
- Upset stomach
- Pain when swallowing
- Sore throat
- Burning and pain inside your mouth
Causes of Cold Sore
You get infected with HSV when you come into contact with things or people that are host to the virus. For example, you can contract it from kissing someone with the virus or sharing razors, towels, or eating utensils.
Two types of viruses that trigger cold sores include HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both types can cause sores to develop on your genitals and be spread by oral sex. Type 1, the first variation of HSV, usually causes cold sores, and type 2 often causes genital herpes, but either can be discovered in both areas.
Certain factors can result in an outbreak, such as:
- Cosmetic surgery or dental work
- Sunburn or being in strong sunlight
- Some foods
Risk Factors Associated with Cold Sores
Cold sores are generally not severe, but the infection may be life-threatening, especially for a person with a weakened immune system due to AIDS, another medication, or condition. In addition, if you have a severe case of a skin condition known as eczema, you may experience cols ores over large parts of your body.
Complications Associated with Cold Sores
Complications resulting from a cold sore are rare, but they can occur if the virus spreads to other different parts of your body, such as your:
- Fingers. This infection is known as herpes whitlow.
- Genitals. You might have ulcers or warts on your anus or genitals.
- Other areas of skin. If you experience eczema and develop a cold sore, consult your doctor immediately to avoid a severe condition known as eczema herpeticum. This painful rash spreads to large areas of the skin.
- Eyes. HSV keratitis is an infection in your cornea which can result in blindness.
- Brain or spinal cord. The virus can trigger dangerous inflammation known as meningitis or encephalitis, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
Prevention of Cold Sores
To reduce your risk of another outbreak:
- Get plenty of rest. A lack of sleep adversely affects the immune system and weakens it, so you become sick more easily.
- Wear lip balm with sunscreen. Search for SPF on the label.
- Talk with your doctor. If you experience sores often, you might have to take an antiviral medicine every day.
To avoid spreading the virus when you have cold sores, do not:
- kiss anyone
- share razors, lipstick or lip balm, towels, glasses, or eating utensils
- have oral sex
You should understand that you can spread the virus even without experiencing any symptoms.
Conventional Treatment for Cold Sores
There’s no cure for cold sores. As soon as you have the virus, it remains in your body. The sores usually heal without treatment in 1 or 2 weeks. Antiviral medications can spread healing, especially if you take them as soon as you detect an outbreak. Your doctor might recommend using:
- cream that can be applied to the sores. Penciclovir (Denavir) and acyclovir (Zovirax) need a prescription, or you can purchase docosanol (Abreva) over the counter.
- Pills that you can swallow, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex), famciclovir (Famvir), or acyclovir (Zovirax, Sitavig). You need a prescription to get these.
- Medicine that can be injected into your bloodstream (known as IV or intravenous) if you experience a severe case of cold sores, such as foscarnet (Foscavir) or cidofovir (Vistide). You can also inject acyclovir into your bloodstream.
Diagnosing Cold Sores
Your doctor might diagnose a cold sore by just looking at the blister. They can also take a sample of the blister and test the fluid for HSV.
Natural Remedies for Cold Sores
If you want a complementary approach to curing the symptoms of cold sores, there are several options you can choose from.
However, you need to understand that the data to support the use of these therapies in the treatment of cold sores is insufficient. Therefore, you should discuss these therapies with your doctor before trying them, and you should not use them as a replacement for more conventional treatments.
Be careful in applying any of the substances to your skin because they can trigger reactions like allergic contact dermatitis and irritation. For instance, propolis can trigger allergic contact dermatitis in some people. Discuss with your dermatologist before using any of these home remedies to get rid of cold sores. You may also want to first test it on a small area of the skin, like the inner arm, just to determine how you react before applying it anywhere else on your body – this is known as a patch test.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Many people have used Apple cider vinegar due to its ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other germs. However, undiluted apple cider vinegar is too concentrated and intense to use directly on a cold sore and might seriously irritate the skin. Ensure that you dilute apple cider vinegar before using it, and then apply it to the affected spot once or twice each day.
2. Essential Oils
Studies have indicated that various essential oils (concentrated oil containing plant compounds) possess inhibitory effects against herpes simplex virus that triggers cold sores. Although the research supporting the efficacy of essential oils is limited, a 2015 study discovered that a variety of essential oils might prevent or slow down viral replication of the herpes virus, helping prevent and heal cold sores.
According to that study and another one already carried out in 2007, the following essential oils possess antiviral effects against herpes virus:
- Artemisia kermanensis essential oil
- Eucalyptus caesia essential oil
- Zataria multiflora essential oil
- sandalwood essential oil
- hyssop essential oil
- thyme essential oil
- ginger essential oil
- basil essential oil
- cinnamon essential oil
- clove essential oil
- tea tree essential oil
- peppermint essential oil
- Rosemary essential oil
Like apple cider vinegar, you may want to dilute any essential oils with a carrier oil before dabbing on your skin and apply immediately if you notice a tingle of a developing cold sore.
3. Kanuka Honey
Honey is already generally known for healing wounds and skin injuries. However, a study carried out in 2018 indicated that kanuka honey, which is produced from the manuka tree in New Zealand, could help treat cold sores, too.
In fact, a large randomized clinical trial discovered that a medical-grade version of this honey seemed to be as effective in the treatment of cold sores as acyclovir.
Propolis is another bee product that can help heal wounds and skin lesions, just like honey. In addition, the antiviral properties contained in propolis could make it effective for healing your cold sores more quickly.
5. Lemon Balm
The research concerning lemon balm is dated. However, a 2008 study indicates that applying an extract of lemon balm (an herb from the mint family) possesses an inhibitory effect against the HSV virus that results in cold sores. The study indicates that lemon balm can be generally used for the treatment of HSV, but more clinical trials are still needed to remove all doubts about its efficacy.
A case report of 2020 discovered that applying a gel containing lemon balm with St. John’s Wort, licorice, lavender, and Siberian ginseng worked as a rapid-acting and effective alternative to OTC cold sore medications. However, larger-scale studies are essential for determining the extent of this treatment’s therapeutic benefits.
You can also get lemon balm in capsule form, and it is effective for various other therapeutic purposes.
Studies have indicated that people who take lysine have lesser chances of experiencing cold sores. However, these studies are limited, and some evidence may be contradictory. For instance, no particular type of lysine preparation or optimal dose was recommended. However, doses above 3 grams per day seem to improve the patient’s “subjective experience” of the condition.
In addition, research dating back to 2015 indicates that using lysine won’t prevent the occurrence of a cold sore, but there is nothing wrong with trying. Lysine is an essential amino acid available as a cream or oral supplement.
It is essential to understand that on-the-counter oral supplements, such as lysine, are not properly regulated by the FDA. Therefore, before taking any oral supplement, you should first discuss it with a healthcare professional. In addition, some supplements may be contaminated with active pharmaceuticals that may affect your health.
What Not To Do With a Cold Sore
It can be tempting to touch, stroke, or pick a cold sore when you have it. Instead, try to keep yourself from doing the following things that may delay the healing process:
- Touch an open sore. Each time you touch the open blister and you refuse to wash your hand immediately afterward, you are at risk of spreading the virus from your hands to other people. Also, you could transfer bacteria from your hands to the sore whenever you poke or prod it.
- Attempt to pop the sore. Do not mistake a cold sore for a pimple. It won’t make it smaller if you squeeze it or attempt to pop it. Instead, you may just squeeze out viral fluid onto your skin. By doing that, you may spread the virus to another person without knowing it.
- Pick at the scab. Sometimes you may unconsciously pick at the scab. But try as much as you can to keep your hands off it. The scab will last a couple of days and then disappear without treatment. If you pick at the scab, it might leave a scar.
- Aggressively wash. It would be nice if you could just wash a cold sore away, but washing it vigorously will only irritate your skin.
- Have oral sex. If you still have a blister, try as much as possible to avoid any intimate contact with your partner that involves the mouth. Wait until it heals up before you resume sexual activity.
- Eat acidic food. Foods that contain high levels of acid, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits, can trigger a burning sensation when they touch a cold sore. You should avoid these foods or go for blander fare for a couple of days.
You have nothing to be ashamed of about a cold sore if it pops up on your lip. Many people experience cold sores, so you are not alone, and it often heals up and disappears without treatments. While you wait for it to heal up, try as best as possible to take good care of it. You can try any of the natural ways to get rid of cold sores already given in this post. You can also introduce a cold, wet compress to reduce the redness or take an OTC pain medication if the condition is painful.
Then before you know it, that cold sore will become nothing but a memory.
Tea Tree Oil is antiviral, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory in nature it helps the healing process by drying out cold sores and preventing bacterial infection. It is easily available in any grocery store.
Chicken, Salmon, Beans, Tofu, Lemon, Grapes, Kiwi, Pineapple, etc., are some preferred supplements for cold sores of their high Lysine Content.
Tingling, Burning, Itching around Lips, Redness, Swelling, Painful Blisters, Crushing of Blisters, etc., are the Symptoms of Cold Sores.
The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only. Always consult your primary care doctor before using the remedies that are provided. The information is provided by The Hidden Cures and while we do timely, in-depth research on the information that we provide to you, everything stated may not be up to date or accurate from the time it was written.