Remedies for cold sores are often sought once sores have physically surfaced. However, in order to reduce the frequency with which they appear, as well as to reduce the severity with which they affect a person, it is important to understand what cold sores are, where they come from, how they can be avoided and how they can be naturally treated once present.
Cold Sores Definition
Cold sores are tiny blisters or lesions that appear on the lips or around the mouth.
Causes of Cold Sores
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are highly contagious and are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. Two types of the virus, Herpes Simplex 1, which affects areas above the waist, or Herpes Simplex 2, which is commonly referred to as genital herpes, can cause cold sores to appear. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact with a person that is infected with either one of these viral strains.
Symptoms of Cold Sores
Symptoms of cold sores generally last from 7 to 10 days and will go away on their own, but may recur many times after the initial infection. The most obvious symptoms are:
- Fluid filled blisters, lesions, or sores on the lip or around the mouth
A person with a cold sore may experience one or more of the following symptoms just prior to the cold sore’s appearance and while sores are present:
- Tingling of the skin days or hours before cold sores appear
- Flu like symptoms
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Slight fever
- Swollen lymph glands
Once a person is infected with the virus, factors that contribute to a recurrence of symptoms are:
- Hormonal changes
- Seasonal changes (especially exposure cold weather and cold winds)
- The common cold
Although cold sores most commonly appear on the lip or around the mouth, other parts of the body can become infected, such as the eyes, nose, chin, fingers, and genitals.
Home Remedies for Cold Sores
Some of the best natural remedies for cold sores involve applying one or more of the following directly to sores:
- Witch Hazel
Some specific herbal remedies for cold sores include:
- Aloe Vera gel, oil, or extract
- Tea (tea bags or leaves can be applied to sores)
- Lemon balm
- Tea tree oil
- Eucalyptus oil
In order to reduce the rate of the occurrence of outbreaks and decrease their intensity, home remedies for cold sores include an adjustment in a person’s daily diet. It is important to keep the body’s pH properly balanced, as the virus thrives best in an acidic environment. Also, certain foods that are high in the amino acid arginine, which researchers believe nourishes the herpes virus, should be avoided, while foods and supplements that are high in the amino acid lysine should be increased.
Specific vitamins that should be sought in dietary form or through supplements are:
Even when using home remedies, cold sores remain highly contagious. Therefore, it is important that a person avoids skin-to-skin contact with others as much as possible and takes regular precautions against spreading the virus to others.