Most people contract the cold sore virus, caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus, when they are young and it is spread in saliva or mucus that comes from the nose and mouth. In fact, babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to cold sores (and this virus) and need to be protected.
It just takes takes one kiss to pass on the virus
If you have an active cold sore yourself - however cute and cuddly the baby or toddler - you must refrain.
Once the virus is in the system, it is usually there for life and cold sores can appear when the immune system is weakened for whatever reason. Sunburn, illness and injury, fever, fatigue and even hormonal changes in pregnancy or in women during their menstrual cycle can also be the trigger for the start of a cold sore.
Fortunately cold sores treatment is available
while approximately 80% of the adult population have anti-bodies against the herpes simplex 1 virus in their system to protect them.
Nevertheless, this very common condition can cause a lot of discomfort particularly when it gets to the cold sore blisters stage. Most cold sores (or fever blisters as they are often known) appear on and above the upper lip, the corners of the mouth as well as on the face.
Cold sores are particularly contagious
There are several stages in the life of a cold sore and the whole cycle takes about 10 days:
- When a cold sore is about to appear, there will be a tingling sensation in that area and then redness.
- The cold sore will start to form as small blisters or these may group together and appear bigger.
- The third stage is the cold sore becoming a red sore which is most noticeable even by those who have never had a cold sore.
- These become painful blisters and are very contagious.
- The last days of the cold sore mean healing and a brown scab may form over the area. If this scab cracks open, it may bleed.
- The cold sore goes from brown to yellow in the final stages of healing
How to protect yourself and others from cold sores
- However tempting, avoid picking at the sores as this can spread the virus to other parts of the body or even result in a bacterial infection of the sores.
- Change to a new toothbrush as soon as an outbreak occurs; change your toothbrush again halfway through the outbreak; and finally use a new toothbrush when all signs of the cold sore have completely disappeared. This is to stop you re-infecting yourself. Please also remember to use a clean towel every time you dry your face and of course on no account share such towels with others. Don’t share eating utensils or cups and glasses.
- Avoid kissing anyone – particularly babies and small children who are so vulnerable.
- Wash your hands frequently and take care to avoid rubbing your eyes or having contact with the genital area in order to stop the virus spreading. It is surprisingly easy to spread the virus to the eyes or the genital area.
Tingling sensation will alert you to a cold sore
Once you have had a cold sore experience, you will be more aware of the possibility of a cold sore starting by the "tingling sensation" that will usually indicate its imminent arrival. Good news here - because it is possible to treat the cold sore immediately to prevent it from taking a hold.
The following tips can help prevent a cold sore takings its course or lessen the discomfort of an existing cold sore:
- Start a course of cold sores or herpes treatment preferably with a natural medication. If the treatment is started at the first sign of symptoms, it can often reduce the length of the outbreak and the infectious period or even prevent the outbreak altogether.
- Take a mild pain reliever if needed.
- Resist the temptation to lick or touch the area, while keeping it as dry and clean as possible. An alcohol solution can help.
- Wrap some ice in a damp, clean cloth and apply this to the cold sore frequently. The herpes virus really dislikes cold.
- Try a moistened tea bag pressed on the cold sore every few minutes – the tannic acid in the tea has anti-viral properties.
- Avoid eating acidic food – for example lemons and grapefruit.
- Make sure to protect the area from the sun and wind.
Strengthen your immune system
In the long run it is important to strengthen your immune system while adopting a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits including cutting out processed, refined foods and sugar; getting plenty of good quality sleep; taking regular exercise; quitting smoking; checking your vitamin D levels to ensure you are not deficient; and avoiding too much stress. Making such changes will boost your immune system while reducing the likelihood of cold sores.
If you are prone to cold sores, it is wise to keep a cold sore treatment on hand so that you can start such preventative treatment the minute you feel a tingling sensation in the area around your mouth.