Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, usually appear around the lips, nose and chin. The condition is quite common as well as contagious.
The problem is caused by the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and is highly contagious, especially when the blisters are oozing fluid. However, the virus does not always cause sores and may even stay dormant permanently.
Factors like emotional stress, fatigue, hormonal changes (especially during menstruation), fever, trauma to the skin, and exposure to strong sunlight tend to reactivate the virus and contribute to outbreaks.
The virus spreads through direct with an infected individual or through saliva, even when the person does not have blisters. It is believed that as much as 90% of the adult population worldwide is infected with this virus.
Cold sore outbreaks are characterized by small, painful blisters around the lips or the edge of the mouth. They can also appear under the nose. You are likely to experience a tingling or burning sensation around the lips or nose a day or two before the blisters erupt. They eventually burst, ooze fluid, and crust over.
These sores usually go away on their own within a week or so. Nevertheless, you can use some simple home cures as soon as you experience the telltale tingling to reduce the duration of an outbreak and ease the discomfort.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for cold sores.
Ice helps reduce the swelling, redness, and pain caused by a cold sore.
Garlic has enzymes that work as antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents that help treat cold sores. In addition, it acts as an anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling and inflammation.
Warning: You may feel a burning sensation when applying raw garlic on the blister-like lesions.
Believe it or not, many people have actually tried this remedy and even found it effective. Acetone is believed to help dry out a cold sore.
Hydrogen peroxide is great for disinfecting and drying up the sore.
This herb prevents and treats cold sores. It has an active ingredient called glycyrrhizin with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you are prone to cold sores, eat this herb on a regular basis to help minimize outbreaks. If you have high blood pressure, avoid taking licorice root as it raises blood pressure and leads to low levels of potassium.
Studies have found that taking lysine on a regular basis can help prevent cold sores due to its antiviral effects. Lysine is an essential amino acid that blocks the activity of another amino acid called arginine, which promotes replication of the herpes simplex virus.
Lemon balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, speeds up the healing process, soothes discomfort, and prevents the infection from spreading. It contains tannins and polyphenolic compounds that contribute to its antiviral effects.
Whole milk contains immunoglobulins that inhibit the virus that causes cold sores. Plus, it has a type of fat known as monocaprin with antiviral effects. Furthermore, cold milk soothes the tingling sensation and discomfort.
Apart from applying, drinking whole milk is also beneficial as it contains lysine.
Echinacea is a powerful herb that bolsters the immune system and has antiviral effects. A study by the University of Ottawa found Echinacea extract to be active against the herpes simplex virus-1.
Warning: Avoid long-term use of this herb; do not take it for more than eight weeks. It may also interact with certain medications, so consult your doctor before taking Echinacea.
Tea tree oil has antiviral properties that can help treat cold sores and shorten the healing time.
If your cold sores recur frequently, do not heal within two weeks, or you experience severe symptoms or irritation in the eyes, see your doctor. More often than not, cold sores heal without scarring.
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