Why Do I Have a Cold Sore?


    Cold sores are embarrassing, painful and difficult to manage, but more common than you think. Many people have gotten cold sores. They are caused herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1), one of two viruses that also cause genital herpes. The sores usually heal by themselves in the course of a week or two, but HSV1 is preventable. The resulting mouth sores are also easily treated with non-prescription and prescription medications.

    Symptoms of cold sores are blisters on, around and sometimes in the mouth. The other symptoms for cold sores are a sore mouth and sore throat which makes eating and drinking difficult, fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Around two days before the cold sores develop; there may be itching, tingling, burning or other pain near the lip line.

    A cold sore, which typically appears on a location around the mouth, is an expression of infection with a herpes virus, usually herpes simplex. When people get one cold sore they’re very likely to have them again because the virus remains in the body, and periodically expresses itself in the form of a new cold sore. Therefore, discussion of the best cold sore treatment needs to revolve around antiviral medications that may help shorten duration of a single cold sore infection.

    The first time a person gets a cold sore, the best cold sore treatment is oral medication of acyclovir, also called Zovirax®. Some doctors may choose to ask patients to take the oral form and also to use an ointment or cream form at the same time. Since cold sores can be long lasting, acyclovir is a very good choice because it tends to reduce length of infection and also makes people less contagious. Length of infection time may be reduced by about 60%, which is encouraging.

    There are other antiviral medications that might be used to treat a cold sore infection. These include famciclovir and valacyclovir or Famvir® and Valtrex®. In general, both of these medications are not as effective of acyclovir. They will slightly reduce the duration of infection, but not to the extent of acyclovir. However, should a person have problems using acyclovir, these other medications should be viewed as the best alternatives. Another medication, penciclovir, available in ointment form, may be considered too.

    The best cold sore treatment doesn’t just depend on what medication is administered. It also relies on when treatment starts. Obviously with the first infection, people may not know they’re getting a cold sore. Thereafter, people should be wary of what is called the prodromal stage. This occurs before appearance of the cold sore, and can include symptoms of tingling, numbness, pain, burning or redness on one area of the mouth.

    When people suspect they are in the prodromal stage, they should start cold sore treatment, usually with an ointment or cream. This may cause the cold sore to not appear and the prodromal symptoms to simply recede. If a cold sore still shows up, usually it will be less severe and go away faster.

    Discussion continues to be ongoing about whether people should take ongoing oral antiviral medication to suppress cold sores all of the time. Some doctors may recommend this for patients who get cold sores very frequently. It is not yet universally acknowledges that this form of therapy, now widely used for those with genital herpes, is appropriate as cold sore treatment for everyone.

    Preventing cold sore outbreaks can also be relatively simple. Apply sun block to the face regularly, especially to areas where outbreaks occur. Use lip balms containing sun block to specifically protect the lips. Avoid close contact with people who have cold sores or genital herpes. Do not share personal items such as towels, forks, lipstick or lip balm. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of lysine and acidophilus; these compounds are readily found in yogurt, and they can be found in dietary supplements as well.

    HSV1 never leaves the body once contracted, but lies dormant until breakouts occur. Although it’s a minor health issue for most people, it can be more common in those with immune deficiencies.

    There are multiple sources of information on cold sore diagnosis, treatment, or prevention. Of course, the best thing to do for any treatment of a cold sore is to see a medical professional.


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