There’s no way to make a cold sore cute, but you can’t hide inside your house, missing out on hot dates or important work presentations until one has passed. And unfortunately, since there is no way to rid the body of the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, once you’ve got the virus, you’re open to outbreaks for life.
You can, however, learn to cope with these blistery blights by minimizing their duration and preventing their recurrence. Here are some easy but essential home remedies to help banish cold sores.
Even when you’re not experiencing a cold sore outbreak, the virus is still there, beneath the skin lying dormant, just waiting for a reason to “wake up.” Different people have different triggers which cause the virus to awaken and wreak havoc on your lips, but here are a few of the common cold sore triggers; some you can control, and some you can’t. Do your best to avoid or minimize the triggers that are within your control, and you may reduce the recurrence of cold sores.
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- UV radiation and/or sunburn
- Dental work
- Immune response
- Infection, colds and flu
Hands Off! Don’t Touch a Cold Sore
No matter how tempting it is to pick or squeeze a cold sore in an attempt to get rid of the nasty blisters, you should never (ever) touch a cold sore. Touching a cold sore can lead to bacterial infection, slowing the healing process.
If you do touch your cold sore, take great care not touch your eyes or genitals immediately after contact with the blister, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly — or use hand sanitizer if a sink isn’t handy. And because cold sores are highly contagious, touching, kissing, sharing cups, towels or makeup can transmit the cold sore virus to others.
Cover & Protect the Cold Sore
Covering a cold sore with petroleum jelly (or a similar non-petroleum vegetable oil based jelly) will help speed the healing of the cold sore, as well as protect the area from secondary infection from bacteria. No matter how unsightly, do not try to conceal a cold sore with makeup, as the chemicals in cosmetics can further irritate the sore and make the condition worse.
Change Your Toothbrush
The virus responsible for cold sores can hide out on your toothbrush, so once you’ve noticed the blister of a fresh cold sore, toss your current toothbrush (or brush attachment), and also get a new one once the cold sore has cleared up.
Protect Your Lips from the Sun
Irritation from exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can cause recurrent outbreaks of cold sores in some people; applying a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher to your lips on a daily basis can help fend off cold sore attacks. If your skin lotion contains SPF, you can rub that over your lips, but sunscreens formulated specifically for your lips will have longer staying power, and can easily be reapplied throughout the day. Try lip balms or lipsticks with built-in SPF.
Studies show that glycyrrhizic acid, an ingredient in real licorice can put the breaks on the cold sore virus. Try chewing on a licorice whip or applying licorice powder or a poultice made from licorice powder combined with a dollop of vegetable shortening. Keep in mind that most candy licorice in North America is actually flavored with anise, so look for the words “licorice mass” on the ingredient list to ensure that it’s the real deal.
And remember, licorice is a medicinal herb, which means that its effects can lead to serious side effects if consumed in large doses over long periods of time. Use in moderation and only when necessary.
Many people use amino acid L-Lysine supplements as a preventative measure against cold sores and also as a treatment method that can shorten a cold sore’s life once it appears. The amino acid is believed to prevent the virus from replicating. Common doses for cold sores are 1000 mg three time a day during a cold sore outbreak to speed healing time, and 500 mg daily to prevent recurrence of cold sores.
Foods which contain high levels of lysine include most vegetables, legumes, fish, turkey, and chicken; you should also avoid foods high in arginine, which include chocolate, peanuts, almonds and other nuts and seeds.
Give your immune system a boost by adding a zinc supplement to your regimen, or sucking on a zinc lozenge during times of stress when your immune system is most vulnerable to attack and/or outbreaks.
Applying an ice pack as soon as you sense that tingling onset of a cold sore; it may cut down the duration of the outbreak, and will also provide temporary pain relief.
Block the Pain
When cold sores are painful, numb the pain by dabbing the cold sore with a local anesthetic ointment containing benzocain. A natural pain-relief alternative is to dab a cotton ball with cold milk and apply directly to the cold sore to cut the pain and speed healing.
You can also try an over the counter painkiller such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, but before you do be sure to contact your doctor about the precautions of taking non-prescription analgesics.