It will be hard to find a person that hasn’t suffered from cold sores. It is a really common viral infection that can affect people of any age. Cold sores are basically fluid-filled tiny blisters that occur around the lips of a person. Apart from the lips, they can also occur on the chin or cheek. The blister can often group together in patches, and scabs can be formed after the blisters break. Normally, cold sores heal within 2 or 3 weeks and don’t leave a scar. They are also known as fever blisters at times.
Cold sores can cause pain, or itching, or a burning sensation before the blisters burst and crust over. Herpes Simplex Virus type 1, or HSV-1 virus is the most common cause behind cold sores. The sores can also result from an infection caused by a different strain of the virus, which is HSV-2.
Around 48.1% of people in the USA that are aged between 14 to 49 years have the HSV-1 virus. It makes them more susceptible to these cold sores. Cold sores are something that you can’t prevent or cure properly. However, you can take measures that will help get rid of this problem, and reduce the pain. Also, the duration and frequency of outbreaks can be reduced too.
Symptoms of Cold Sores
Some people don’t face any symptoms of oral herpes, and some only face them only after their first exposure to the virus. However, around 25% of people that have oral herpes experience recurrent outbreaks. Cold sores can often appear in the same areas each time in those cases. Initial symptoms of an infection caused by HSV-1 can appear 2 to 20 days after getting exposed to the virus. The symptoms of the infection can include-
- Pain in Tongue or Mouth
- Lip Swelling
- Lesions on the Mouth, Tongue, Cheeks, Chin, or in the Nostrils
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Sore Throat
- High Body Temperature
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
Some people might suffer from an infection of the gums and mouth called gingivostomatitis. This infection lasts for around 1-2 weeks and doesn’t usually reoccur. Some adults can face infection of the throat and tonsils along with the initial infection of oral herpes. Thus throat infection is called pharyngotonsillitis.
Cold Sore Stages
Whenever cold sores occur and reoccur, they develop in multiple stages. The start of a cold sore outbreak is often indicated by a burning, tingling, or itching sensation around the mouth. Then fluid-filled and painful sores start appearing; mostly around the mouth. The sores then break and generate fluid. After the sores have been broken down, a yellow crust gets formed on the sores. A pink skin gets revealed after crusts come off, which heals in 3 to 4 days’ time.
Most cold sores start to disappear within 1 to 2 weeks without treatment. They don’t leave a scar.
Causes of Cold Sores
Viral strains that are the cause of cold sores, as in HSV-1 and HSV-2, are highly contagious. They can transmit easily if there is close contact. Whenever the virus gets transmitted into a body, the person might have flu-like symptoms. The immune system of the body manages to suppress the virus within 1-2 weeks, and then the sore disappears.
However, the virus doesn’t leave the body even after the sore goes away. Though the virus remains inactive in the body for most of the time, it can get reactivated occasionally to cause cold sores again. Most people don’t realize that they have oral herpes until they suffer from cold sores or some other symptom. Some people only face one outbreak of cold sores, and no recurrence as the virus remains dormant. Others might face frequent outbreaks of cold sores throughout several years.
Treatment of Cold Sores
We have said earlier that cold sores get resolved within 1-2 weeks. There isn’t much need for any kind of medications or treatments. However, you can go for some treatment methods that will shorten the outbreak period of the cold sores. At the same time, the pain, discomfort, and other unbearable sensations can be reduced with these methods. Here are some treatment methods for cold sores-
There are OTC or Over-the-Counter antiviral creams that can shorten the time period of an outbreak. Most OTC antiviral creams contain penciclovir or acyclovir. A person should apply an antiviral cream to the affected area every 2-3 hours for 5 days.
If a person suffering from cold sores has a weak immune system or faces regular outbreaks, they can get prescribed oral antiviral medications. The antiviral medication needs to be taken once or twice per day. These medications help to shorten the duration of the cold sore outbreaks and also keep them from reoccurring.
Light therapy is one of the most effective forms of therapy. It comes with numerous benefits. These therapy devices emit a strong light that penetrates the skin, muscles, and even bones to work on a cellular level. Light therapy generates different chemical reactions and hormones to deal with the issues a person is facing. This therapy can deal with different skin problems, hair loss problems, different types of pain, wounds, muscle building, sleeping problems, various mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress, seasonal affective disorder, etc.
Light therapy can also help deal with cold sores. This therapy model can increase the strength of the immunity so that the virus can be dealt with in a better way. Also, light therapy helps to lessen the pain and discomfort a lot and provides comfort and relaxation. This type of therapy generates special chemical reactions that can accelerate the healing process of cold sores. Make sure to expose your affected area to the emitted light so that light can do its trick in dealing with cold sores.
You can easily take light therapy at your home by using a light therapy device.
Other Home Remedies
There are some special home remedies that you can go for in order to relieve your cold sore symptoms, and also reduce the pain and discomfort. Those remedies are-
- Applying cold and soaked tea bags to the affected area every hour
- Dabbing the affected area with diluted lavender, geranium, or tea tree oil
- Using Moisturizers of Petroleum Jelly to keep the skin moist and prevent cracking
However, there is no scientific evidence supporting if these remedies actually work to help with cold sores or not. But they certainly bring in some comfort by reducing the pain.
You don’t really need to worry too much when you suffer from cold sores. Even though they get healed all by themselves, it can be really painful and discomforting. Make sure to keep your affected area clean, and not to get too close to anyone as these are highly contagious. You can go for any of the above-mentioned remedies to treat it within a short period of time and reduce the pain to a great degree.