Cold sores are painful sores, which develop on the lips, usually on the lower lips. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus and once you have had a cold sore, there is a good chance that you will have recurrent blisters. This is because the virus remains in your body.
Most people experience mild tingling before a cold sore develops. The blisters tend to be fairly small and they contain fluid. Although they can be uncomfortable and unsightly, cold sores usually heal on their own without the need for any treatment within 10 days. Cold sores are very contagious and they are easily spread through skin to skin contact.
There are antiviral creams, which can be applied to heal sores, but there are also natural remedies, which can help to ease pain and reduce the visibility of cold sores. These include:
Lemon balm is part of the mint family and it has been used historically to treat stress and anxiety, which are notorious triggers for cold sores. A study published in the Alternative and Complementary Therapies journal showed that using lemon balm helped to visibly reduce inflammation and redness within just 2 days. Lemon balm is available to buy from pharmacies, but you can also make your own solution by mixing 2 teaspoons of lemon balm with boiled water. Once the solution has cooled, it can then be applied to the sore using a cotton bud.
The antioxidant properties of green tea are well-documented and this is a very popular natural remedy for all kinds of illnesses and afflictions. Green tea is rich in EGCG, an antioxidant, which is also believed to possess antiviral benefits. You can drink cups of green tea or apply the tea directly to the sore; always make sure the tea has cooled sufficiently before topical use to prevent further damage to the skin.
Honey is often regarded as a soothing natural remedy for coughs and colds, sore throats and anxiety and now researchers in the United Arab Emirates believe it is an effective treatment for cold sores. In a study, which involved 16 patients with cold sores, honey was found to reduce healing times by up to 35 per cent compared to antiviral medication.
Preventing cold sores
It’s impossible to prevent cold sores, as there is no way of preventing viral infection; however, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. If you have a cold sore, try to avoid touching it and always wash your hands before and after you apply your cold sore cream. If you are using a topical cream, use a cotton wool pad or a bud to gently dab the cream on, rather than applying it with your hands. Avoid sharing anything, which has touched your lips, such as cutlery or glasses and avoid kissing until the sore has healed completely.
Many people suffer outbreaks of cold sores in response to certain triggers and recognising these triggers can help to prevent recurrent infections in the future. Common triggers include anxiety and stress, exposure to sunlight, tiredness and illness. If you’re worried you may be showing signs of herpes, find treatment at this private London health clinic.