Have you noticed an outbreak of small blisters on or around your lips? You might be suffering from cold sores. Cold sores are fairly common, with the virus affecting 50 to 80 percent of the U.S. population, albeit in an inactive form.1 While the name may sound like common cold viruses cause these sores, they are actually caused by a different type of virus — the herpes simplex virus. Read this article to learn more about this skin condition and how you can get rid of it fast.
Cold sores, or fever sores, are small blisters that develop around the mouth or on the lips. Before the blisters develop, you might feel a slight burning and tingling sensation around your mouth. Fluid-filled pustules then start to develop on or around the lips. Aside from the blisters, this condition may also cause halitosis and a sore throat.2
Two types of herpes virus primarily cause cold sores: herpes simplex virus 1 (HHV1) and human herpes virus 2 (HHV2). The difference between the two varies based on their life span and the ease of transmission from person to person.
The first type of herpes virus may be transmitted from razors and towels used by the infected person, while the second type does not survive that long in environments far from the human body. The second type is typically responsible for genital herpes, but may also cause cold sores, especially after engaging in oral sex.3 There are numerous ways that you may become exposed to the virus. Some of the modes of transmission include:4
- Sharing razors and towels — Sharing personal care items with an infected individual might heighten your risk of exposure to the herpes virus. Use your own hygiene products and remember to regularly clean or change them.
- Using the same utensils — Sharing plates, drinking glasses and utensils may make transmission easier as all of these come into contact with the mouth.
- Touching your face — One of the habits that may expose you to the herpes simplex virus is touching your face. Sometimes you might even touch your face unknowingly at random times of the day. This exposes you to a greater risk of accidentally contracting the virus from something the infected patient has come in contact with.
The good news is that cold sores usually go away without needing any treatment. However, this means that you have to wait for at least seven days before your blisters start to heal.5
If you want to accelerate the healing process, there are a handful of natural and holistic remedies you can try. Most of the remedies help by normalizing the pH levels in the skin surrounding the sores or assisting in killing off the viruses present in the sores. Here are a few home remedies for cold sores you can try:6
1. Cornstarch — Mix cornstarch with a little bit of water to make a paste. Dab it on the blisters a few times a day to neutralize the pH, soothe the pain and reduce inflammation.
2. Aloe vera — Apply aloe vera gel regularly on your cold sores to soothe the sensitive and blistered skin. The gel may protect the sores from coming into contact with other bacteria.
3. Earl Grey tea — Earl Grey tea may help stop the emergence of cold sores once the tingling sensation starts. This is due to the bergamot oil and tannins the tea leaves contain. You can also use it to ease swelling during its onset. Soak a tea bag in hot water. Wring out the excess water and apply the warm tea bag on your sores for about 20 minutes.7
4. Licorice — Being both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, licorice may be one of the best remedies for cold sores. It may slow down the spread of the virus and alleviate cold sore symptoms. Mix licorice powder with a bit of petroleum jelly. Apply the paste on the cold sores and leave it on for a few hours or overnight.
5. Hydrogen peroxide — The antibacterial and antiseptic properties of hydrogen peroxide may help speed up healing by protecting the open sores from other infections. Mix equal amounts of hydrogen peroxide with clean water. You can apply the mixture to the sores or swish it around your mouth.8
6. Lemon balm — Applying lemon balm on the blisters may help ease inflammation and swelling, and assist in preventing recurrence.9
Conventional doctors usually prescribe cold sore medication to dull the pain and improve the aesthetic appearance of the blisters. Unfortunately, even with treatment, the virus will remain in the body. You may be given antiviral tablets or creams to ease the symptoms and speed up skin healing. However, these treatments may expose you to other complications. If you want to assist your body in fighting off the infection, here are a few tips you may find worthwhile:10
• Avoid acidic, salty foods during an outbreak. — Eating acidic, salty and spicy food may aggravate the pain and irritation that accompanies the cold sores.11
• Gently dab topical remedies instead of rubbing — Avoid harshly rubbing the topical solutions or remedies into the cold sores to avoid further irritating them.
• Avoid touching your cold sores — Touching may introduce other foreign particles to the sores and aggravate the inflammation. In addition, this will make it easier for you to spread the infection to other people.
• Wash your hands regularly — In the possible case that you unknowingly touch your cold sores, make sure that you wash your hands regularly to avoid spreading the virus to other parts of your body or to other people.
Essential oils offer a wide variety of health benefits, from assisting in the treatment of numerous conditions to just boosting your overall health. Due to the numerous impressive components of the different essential oils, it's no surprise that they may play a significant role in the treatment of cold sores.
Here are some of the essential oils you can use to alleviate pain and speed up recovery (just make sure you dilute these with a safe carrier oil):12
Lavender oil may reduce pain and inflammation caused by cold sores. Apply diluted lavender oil directly on the cold sores to alleviate the discomfort.
Peppermint oil is rich in antiviral properties that may assist in treating cold sores. Applying diluted peppermint oil on the blisters may speed up healing and stop the sores from recurring.
Chrysanthemum oil contains anti-inflammatory properties, which may help ease cold sore symptoms.
Eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which aids in pain alleviation and recovery.
Clove oil, mixed with milder carrier oils, may be applied on the cold sores to help fight the herpes simplex virus.
Tea tree oil may have virucidal properties, stopping the herpes simplex virus from spreading and the infection from getting worse.
Thyme oil — Studies show that thyme oil may help fight off the herpes simplex virus as it showed an antiviral action against it.
Even though a herpes simplex infection may seem daunting, it can be, thankfully, easily managed. If you're currently suffering from cold sores, you'd probably want to use the quickest remedy to erase the unsightly condition as early as possible. However, this doesn't mean that you should reach for conventional medications.
Natural remedies can offer the same amount of relief, minus the possibility that you're being exposed to strong, potentially harmful chemicals used in pharmaceutical interventions.