Most people think of cold sores as pesky little things that appear at the corners of your mouth. For those who are prone to it though, it causes not only discomfort and pain but is also a sign that they are run down and that their immune system is low. Stress and illness are two main triggers of cold sores. When your immune system is compromised, it’s less likely to fight off viruses.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious as soon as symptoms begin, even if blisters have not appeared. They can also be spread to others even when there are no symptoms. To avoid spreading the cold sore virus:

  • Avoid intimate contact including kissing and other skin-to-skin contact until the lesion is healed.
  • Don’t share personal care items such as utensils, towels, or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t share cosmetics such as lipstick, lip gloss, or foundation.
  • Replace your toothbrush when you get a cold sore to prevent reinfection, and replace it again after the sore has healed.
  • Don’t pick at a cold sore, and wash your hands each time you apply ointment or touch the sore.
  • If sunlight triggers cold sores, apply sunscreen daily to the area where cold sores develop.

While there is no cure for any type of herpes simplex virus and once a cold sore begins, it must run its course, there are still ways to reduce the severity of the symptoms and the length of the cold sore. Here are 8 things you can do to treat and alleviate its symptoms.

The best time to begin treating a cold sore is as soon as you feel tingling or itching around your mouth. These symptoms may happen a few days before blisters appear.

  1. Lysine

Lysine is an amino acid that may help prevent the herpes simplex virus from being more active. Lysine tablets may reduce the number of herpes simplex virus outbreaks and their severity. Lysine may also help reduce healing time.

2. Rhubarb and Sage

Topical creams made of rhubarb and sage may be effective for treating cold sores by speeding up the healing of cold sores.

3. Zinc

Topical zinc oxide cream may shorten the duration of cold sores. According to some studies, cold sores treated with zinc oxide went away, on average, one-and-a-half days sooner than those treated with placebo. Zinc oxide also reduced blistering, soreness, itching, and tingling sensations.

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4. Propolis

Propolis is a resin material that bees collect from botanicals and use to seal crevices in their beehives. Propolis is high in antioxidants and is thought to have antiviral properties. Research has shown propolis may prevent the herpes simplex virus from replicating.

5. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm extract has antiviral abilities. Studies have indicated that lemon balm helps protect against the herpes simplex virus. They also found that treating a cold sore with lemon balm in its early stages was most effective. Lemon balm has been shown to reduce healing time and some of the symptoms of cold sores.

6. Cold Compress

Applying a cool cloth to a cold sore is soothing. It removes crusty areas and helps reduce redness and inflammation.

7. Liquorice Root

Liquorice root has antiviral and antibacterial abilities. Its antiviral properties help prevent viruses from replicating, while its antibacterial properties inhibit bacterial function. Topical liquorice root cream is available to treat cold sores.

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8. Antiviral treatment

Your doctor may recommend a prescription antiviral to treat a cold sore. Most antivirals come in a tablet or topical cream form, and some are available in an injectable form. They may be used to reduce the length of an acute outbreak or as a preventative to prevent new outbreaks.

To reduce your risk of a major outbreak, it’s important to start antiviral therapy medication as soon as you feel a cold sore coming on, even if blisters haven’t formed yet.

*This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice

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