You might think that once your cold sore outbreak is over, you won’t have to deal with the pain and discomfort again. But what’s really problematic about the herpes virus is that once you’ve got it, the virus stays with you for the rest of your life.
It’s a lifelong infection. This means that it can’t be cured, nor will it go away completely. You’ll experience recurring outbreaks at some point in time. The only thing that you can do is to manage your symptoms well and avoid whatever triggers your cold sore outbreaks.
HSV1 is the first type of the herpes simplex virus. It’s the one that’s behind most oral herpes infections. It’s also the virus that causes those painful cold sores. The other type of herpes virus, HSV2, is the one that usually causes herpes blisters in the genital area.
When you get infected with HSV1, the virus stays in your system and hides in your nerve cells. When triggered, the virus starts to actively replicate. An itching, burning, or tingling feeling on your lips or around your mouth is the first sign of HSV1 becoming active again.
World Health Organization experts estimate that about 3.7 billion people all over the world have herpes. Many of those who are infected acquired the disease during early childhood.
Those who were already adults when they acquired the disease most likely caught it by kissing someone who has oral herpes or by giving oral sex to someone who has genital herpes. Aside from direct skin contact, HSV1 may also be transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids such as saliva and the fluid oozing from cold sore blisters.
The herpes virus can also be transmitted through asymptomatic viral shedding. This means that the virus is present and active, but the infected person who is shedding the virus is not showing any symptoms at all. In short, it’s totally possible to acquire oral herpes from someone who doesn’t even have cold sores.
Avoid Herpes Triggers
After an outbreak of cold sores, HSV1 usually stays dormant inside your nerve cells. If you’re lucky, the virus won’t become active again for quite some time. However, when you’re constantly exposed to cold sore triggers, you would experience recurring outbreaks quite often.
Exposure to sunlight is considered a common trigger of HSV1. If you feel that your cold sore outbreaks are happening too often, try to minimize your exposure to sunlight. Always wear sunscreen whenever you go outside.
For many people with oral herpes, exposure to extreme temperatures may also trigger another outbreak. Going somewhere that’s too warm or too cold may also cause your cold sores to reappear.
A lot of people with oral herpes experience recurring cold sore outbreaks whenever they’re exposed to a high-stress situation. If you feel that stress may also be a trigger for you, try to manage your stress levels as much as possible.
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Boost your immune system
When your immune system becomes weak, you might suffer another cold sore outbreak. Even a slight fever or a cold can already weaken your immune system and cause the herpes virus to reactivate.
Multivitamin and mineral supplements can help strengthen your immune system. Make sure your supplement contains vitamins C, E, and B6. An antioxidant supplement may also be helpful.
Cold Sore Treatments
If you’re looking to prevent future cold sore outbreaks or shorten the time it takes for your herpes blisters to heal, the best way to do it is to take prescription oral antiviral medicines. Doctors usually give a prescription for valacyclovir, acyclovir, penciclovir, or famciclovir in order to treat cold sores.
If you prefer to use over-the-counter treatment options, you actually have a lot of choices. Here are a few:
Cold sore creams
These are topical creams that you apply directly to the herpes blisters. Some products contain antiviral active components like acyclovir, while other products contain benzyl alcohol or docosanol. When buying a cold sore cream, check the ingredients. Some products only contain topical anesthetics which are only helpful in relieving the pain.
Several essential oils are known to help provide relief from cold sores. Tea tree oil, sandalwood oil, and peppermint oil are all often used as home remedies for cold sores. Dilute the oil then wet a cotton swab with it. Dab it on your cold sores.
Aloe vera gel
This plant is known to have various helpful properties. Aloe vera is often used to help heal wounds and to soothe and moisturize the skin. Aloe vera gel is also known to possess antibacterial and antiviral properties, and it can also help make your cold sores heal faster.
To keep your lips moist, try using a lip moisturizer that contains lemon balm and provides sunscreen protection. Because it has antiviral properties, lemon balm can help kill HSV1 and shorten your healing time.
Things to Avoid
Here are a few things that you should avoid whenever you have cold sores.
- Don’t kiss anyone, especially children
Since HSV1 can be transmitted through direct skin contact, you can pass the virus to your loved ones if you have herpes blisters on your lips and you kiss someone.
- Don’t touch or pick at your herpes blisters
You might inadvertently touch your cold sores, especially when you’re applying cold sore cream or when your sores are feeling particularly painful or itchy. Wash your hands right away if you happened to touch a herpes blister.
- Don’t share your drinking straw
When you have cold sores, it’s possible that the virus is present in your saliva. If you use a drinking straw or drink straight from a glass, can, or bottle, make sure no one else uses it to prevent spreading the virus.