Cold sores or fever blisters are painful and unsightly lesions that usually appear on the lips or around the mouth. Some people have them several times a year and they often wonder is there something they can do to solve this problem for good.
Chronic or recurring cold sores
Cold sores are caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1. This virus is very contagious and spreads easily from one person to another, through direct or indirect contact. When the virus first penetrates the skin, it causes the first outbreak, which unfortunately is rarely the last one. It causes one or more cold sores, which are small blisters, individual or grouped together, that are filled with liquid.
Cold sores can be painful and itchy, and they are certainly unsightly. They can last from four to ten days.
After the first outbreak, even after the sore is gone, the virus is still in the system. In fact, it lies dormant in the nerve and waits for the trigger. It can be a drop in the immune defense system, stress, hormonal changes or other factors. When this happens, the cold sore appears again, usually at the exact same place.
Some very lucky people do not have other breakouts after the first one, but more often the virus activates repeatedly and the cold sore becomes a chronic problem.
How to treat recurring cold sores
Since they are caused by a virus, cold sores cannot be definitely cured, or, they can be cured but there is no way of knowing if or when they will come back again. The virus will stay in the nerve but it is possible to reduce the chances of a new outbreak by preventing the triggers.
The first step is to improve the immune system. If the immune system functions properly, the virus will stay dormant, without causing problems. Avoiding the stress, sleeping well and eating well are the best things one can do to boost the immune system.
If the cold sores do appear again, there are many remedies that can shorten their duration and relieve the symptoms. Before a cold sore appears, the area where it will appear turns red and starts tingling, and that is the best time to react.
Cold compresses, wet tea bags, herbal ointments, over-the-counter anti-viral medications, sliced onions or garlic cloves are some of the things that can be applied to reduce the severity of the cold sore.
Zinc paste also works well, especially if the blister has already formed, and so does the mixture of baking soda and water.