Treating & Preventing Cold Sores

Cold sores usually appear on your lip. Canker sores affect the inside of your mouth. They don’t involve the herpes virus and aren’t contagious. No one knows what causes them. Cold sores generally signal their arrival with a warning period of red, irritated skin. Blisters form, burst, and then crust over before they heal.

Cold sores usually clear up without treatment within 7 to 10 days. Antiviral tablets or cream can be used to ease your symptoms and speed up the healing time.

Cold sores aren’t usually serious and can be treated by a pharmacist. Your pharmacist may recommend that you contact your GP practice if required.

Cold Sore Stages: Identification and Treatment

Cold sores

Cold sore stages: Pictures, duration, and treatment

Cernik, C. Archives of Internal Medicine, June 9, 2008.

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Antiviral Creams Can Help

Antiviral tablets are generally more effective than creams at treating cold sores, but are usually only prescribed for more severe cases.

If you develop a cold sore, some general advice to follow includes:

Treating & Preventing Cold Sores

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You can buy electronic devices from pharmacies that treat cold sores with light or lasers.

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Important

They often shorten the time it takes a cold sore to heal. But they work best if you put them on at the very first sign of an outbreak. Docosanol cream is available over the counter. Acyclovir (Zovirax) cream and penciclovir (Denavir) cream are available by prescription.

Despite the name, that isn’t what causes them. The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is most often the cause. You get it from contact with an infected person’s skin or body fluids. The virus damages your skin as it reproduces. That leaves behind weepy sores that last about a week. Between outbreaks, HSV-1 hides inside nerve cells, so it’s never completely cured.

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Cold Sore Stages: Identification and Treatment

Some people find these helpful, but there have not been many studies to confirm if they work.

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Don’t

What about a cold sore that isn’t on your lip? They aren’t as common, but they can pop up anywhere on your face, like your cheek, chin, or nose. Most people’s cold sores reappear in the same area each time.

HSV-1 lives in your nerves. It’s pretty quiet most of the time, but you may have triggers that bring it out of hiding and cause cold sores. They can range from sunlight or a fever to stress and getting your period. Some people get cold sores twice a year or less. For others, it’s a monthly ordeal.

Cold sore

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How Does the Virus Spread?

American Academy of Dermatology: “Viral Infections: Herpes Simplex.”

Several non-antiviral creams are also available over the counter from pharmacies without the need for a prescription.

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