Cold sores can be pesky little things. They always occur at the wrong time, like right before a date or an important job interview. Cold sores occur on the lips or in the area surrounding the mouth. Cold sores are also referred to as “fever blisters”.
Cold sores or “fever blisters” are caused by the Herpes Simplex 1 virus. Type 1 refers to herpetic lesions of the upper body. Genital herpes do not fall into this category. Since cold sores are caused by a virus, they are treatable but not curable. Also, cold sores are highly contagious. Even slight contact with a lesion can transmit virus particles from one person to another. Treatments exist both over the counter and prescription to keep cold sores under control and get rid of those unsightly lip lesions.
1. Over the counter treatments. Cold sores can be treated with creams and ointments purchased from your local pharmacy. Abreva® is a cold sore treatment that speeds healing as well as any prescription medication. The treatment should be used during the first couple of days of the infection which is called the “tingle stage”. During this stage of the infection, outward signs are not yet visible on the skin. An infected person may feel burning, tingling, or itching around the mouth where the cold sore is preparing to form. Abreva® works best at this stage to shorten what could be a two week ordeal from start to finish. Other products that can be used include Herpecin-L®, Zilactin®, and Anbesol Cold Sore Therapy®. Carmex®, Neosporin(TM), and Chapstick® are used to prevent cracking, itching, and redness during the later stages of the infection when the sore is drying out and scabbing over.
2. Prescription medications. If over the counter remedies are not resolving the cold sore problem to your satisfaction, then see a doctor about prescription treatments. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications for the treatment of cold sores: Denavir® cream 1% and Zovirax® cream 5%. These creams are best applied during the “tingle stage” of cold sore formation. The logic is that if the treatment is applied early enough before the herpes virus has time to replicate itself the duration of the outbreak will decrease. An important point to note is that even with treatment, a person experiencing a cold sore is still considered contagious until the sore completely disappears.
While cold sores are not a major health problem, they are a form of herpes simplex virus and should be treated appropriately. Steps should be taken to avoid re-infection and transmittance of the virus. Treatment does not cure, but does keep cold sore symptoms under control.
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