While there is no way to cure herpes or to heal a cold sore, there are some steps you can take to reduce the duration or intensity of an outbreak. Simple lifestyle changes can help prevent future outbreaks.
What is a Cold Sore?
A cold sore is a symptom of the herpes simplex virus type 1, or oral herpes. Cold sores begin with some tingling, itching or minor pain. The sore appears as a small bump and eventually turns into a fluid filled blister that will dry out and crust over. After the crust is gone, there should be no scar. Herpes is highly contagious; if you have a cold sore, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after touching your face. The sore may be contagious before you even notice any symptoms and after it heals completely. It's best to err on the side of caution if you have herpes.
What Is Herpes?
Herpes simplex virus type 1 is also called oral herpes and is the cause of cold sores and fever blisters. Herpes simplex virus type 2 is also known as genital herpes. Both forms of herpes are spread through sexual contact, either by mouth to mouth contact, genital to genital contact or mouth to genital contact. Therefore it's possible to have genital herpes in your mouth and oral herpes on your genitals. Herpes is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is estimated that 60 to 80% of all Americans have one form of herpes, and 90% of those people don't know it. Since herpes is so contagious, it's easy to see how quickly it can spread.
Progression of a Cold Sore
The cold sore begins with pain, itching or tingling at the infection site, usually on the lips. After a day or two, a small bump will appear and turn into a blister. The blister will eventually cry out and crust over. Once the crust falls away, skin should be back to normal and not have any scarring.
Speed Up the Healing Process
There are some methods to help you speed up the healing process of a cold sore. Most commonly, people with herpes have a prescription medication on hand to take at the first sign of an outbreak. There are also over the counter medicines which may ease the symptoms of the cold sore and possibly speed up the healing process.
Some people find relief by placing an ice cube directly on the sore for 15 seconds, removing it for 15 seconds and applying the ice again. Doing this for a few minutes may shorten the time of the outbreak, especially if you catch it early on.
Other people find relief through vitamin E capsules or echinacea applied directly to the sore. Reducing stress may be the most beneficial treatment method for cold sores, as they are frequently caused by stress or a weakened immune system. Since stress actually weakens the immune system, reducing stress can relieve the intensity of the outbreak and work to prevent further outbreaks.
Photo Credit: Mr D Logan