Cold sores: treatment and management tips

Cold sores may not be a serious health condition but are painful, annoying, and often embarrassing for those who get them. First exposure to the virus is often in childhood, normally appearing on/near the lip. The virus lies dormant until later in life when triggered to become active and cause cold sores to appear. Triggers include colds, flus, being run down from stress or illness and sunburn.

Cold sores usually start with a tingling, burning or itchy feeling on the skin, before a red swollen patch develops and turns into blister/s. These crust over and dry-up after about a week, with the sores eventually healing completely and disappearing within 10 days of the first tingle. The liquid inside the blister contains active herpes viruses so may be spread to other areas or people by touching the area, kissing, or sharing your eating and drinking utensils or face cloths and towels. Remember to wash and dry your hands frequently after bathing and treating or touching cold sores.

Anti-viral medicine can be used to treat cold sores if used at the first signs of tingling. They are available from your Pharmacist in tablets or creams. Patches can be applied over the sore to protect the area, ease pain and help heal. Lysine seems to reduce the recurrence of cold sores and may also reduce the severity and healing time. Take as a supplement or it can be found in foods such as dairy and soy products, brewer's yeast and potatoes. Zinc may also be useful to keep cold sores away. Good food sources of zinc are lean red meat, brewer's yeast, egg yolk, kelp, soy products and fish.

It is important to see your Doctor if your eyes become red, watery or sensitive to light around the time of infection as it is possible to spread the virus to the eyes. Similarly, babies and people with suppressed immunity should see their Doctor if affected.



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