Cold Sore Treatment

Cold Sore Treatment


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Cold sores are caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus is very common and it’s estimated to affect approximately 67% of the world’s population. The virus is caught by coming into contact with other people with an active infection. This is often during childhood when children come into close contact through activities such as play.

For most of your life, the virus will lie dormant in your skin, suppressed by your immune system. Occasionally the virus will reactivate causing a cold sore. This is often when your immune system is temporarily weakened, for example through stress or illness.

Cloud Pharmacy offers a range of treatments for cold sores. Complete a free online consultation to see which treatments are suitable for you, and get them delivered straight to your door if prescribed.

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Once an online consultation has been been approved by our medical team, our pharmacy will safely prepare and ship your treatment to you in discreet packaging using Royal Mail or DPD.

What Is a Cold Sore?

Cold sores are small fluid-filled blisters that develop on and around the lips. This common viral infection is spread via close contact with other people, including kissing and oral sex. Even when blisters can’t be seen, the infection is still contagious.

Cold sores can begin with a tingling or itchy feeling and become more painful. There is no cure for cold sores, but symptoms can be eased with the right medicines and treatment.

What Causes Cold Sores?

Cold sores are caused by a virus called herpes simplex (HSV). There are two types of the HSV virus; HSV-1 usually causes cold sores, whereas HSV-2 is responsible for genital herpes. However, both types can spread to the face or genitals through close contact.

HSV can be spread via kissing or oral sex, and the infection can also be passed on through sharing towels, razors and food utensils. When oozing blisters are present, cold sores are most contagious. However, cold sores can be spread even when you don’t have any blisters.

Cold sores can be triggered by certain factors. We cover these factors further down the page.

Cold Sore Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of a cold sore include:

  • Blisters: tiny fluid-filled blisters usually appear on or around the border of the lips, but can sometimes develop inside your mouth or around your nose.
  • Tingling: a tingling or itching sensation is common around the lips before the blisters appear. This feeling typically begins about a day before the blisters.
  • Oozing: the blisters can burst, which leaves open sores which ooze a clear fluid.
  • Crusting: after blisters have oozed, they may crust over.
  • Fever: you may develop symptoms of fever – such as sweating, chills, headache and muscle aches – during a first-time cold sore outbreak.

Cold Sore Stages

The timeline of a cold sore infection can be split into five different stages:

Stage 1: Tingling

An unexplained tingling or itching around the mouth may indicate the start of a cold sore outbreak.

Stage 2: Blistering

Following the tingling phase, blisters will appear on your skin. The blisters are filled with clear fluid and are surrounded by red skin. You may also have blisters inside the mouth and around the nose.

Stage 3: Weeping

When cold sores break open and begin to ooze fluid, this is known as the weeping stage. These red open sores are shallow, and the infection is most contagious during this time.

Stage 4: Crusting

After they have oozed, your blisters will dry. This is the start of the crusting stage, during which blisters dry out and appear brown or yellow.

Stage 5: Healing

During this final stage, your crusted blisters will scab over and heal. As these scabs flake away, they will gradually disappear.

How Long Do Cold Sores Last For?

Cold sores will typically last for between seven to ten days. There are various medicines and treatments – including tablets and creams - that you can use to clear up cold sores quickly. While they can’t get rid of the virus, they can treat the symptoms effectively. Additionally, drink plenty of fluids, avoid acidic or salty foods, and avoid touching your cold sore to speed up the healing process.

What Triggers Cold Sores?

Once you have the HSV virus, there are several triggers that can lead to an outbreak. These include:

  • An illness: illnesses such as colds can trigger cold sores.
  • Exposure to hot weather: spending a long time under the hot sun could trigger an outbreak. Wearing appropriate headwear and SPF on your lips helps to limit this exposure.
  • Cold winds: cold weather, and in particular cold winds, could be a trigger. Wear scarves and lip protectants to limit this exposure.
  • Changing hormone levels: as hormone levels rise and fall, such as during a menstrual cycle or in pregnancy, cold sores can develop.
  • Weak immune system: if your immune system is weak, you are more likely to get cold sores. That’s because the virus, which lives in the nerve cells of your lips, is usually inhibited by your immune system.
  • Stress: stress can be a trigger for cold sores by suppressing the effectiveness of your immune system.

Are Cold Sores Contagious?

Cold sores are very contagious. You can easily infect someone with the HSV virus through contact like kissing, oral sex, and sharing razors, towels and utensils. Cold sores are most contagious during the weeping stage when the blisters burst open and ooze fluid.

While cold sore blisters can clear up within ten days, the infection itself is usually contagious for 15 days. You can spread the virus even when no sores are visible.

Here are some tips on how to prevent your cold sores from spreading:

  • Don’t touch your cold sores
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Don’t share your possessions (such as towels, food utensils and razors)
  • Avoid kissing
  • Avoid oral sex

Cold Sores and Babies (Neonatal Herpes)

Babies are most susceptible to cold sores, and therefore you shouldn't kiss a baby if you have a blister or breastfeed if you have a cold sore on your breast, as this can lead to neonatal herpes (herpes infection in a young baby). Babies are most at risk of getting herpes within the first four weeks of life.

Since babies have underdeveloped immune systems, there is the possibility that they could get very ill if they contract the virus. You could call a GP or 999 immediately if your baby experiences the following symptoms:

  • Irritable
  • Lethargic
  • Not feeding
  • Sores
  • A rash
  • A high temperature

How to Prevent Cold Sores

If you suffer from cold sores, there are certain things you can do to control them and prevent them from occurring so often:

  • Avoiding and managing your triggers, such as exposure to hot or cold weather, or stress
  • Use sunblock lip balm
  • Take paracetamol to ease swelling
  • Always drink plenty of fluids
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Try to avoid stressful situations by keeping a calm mind and easing tension. Try calming techniques such as meditation
  • Use cold sore treatment like aciclovir tablets to ease symptoms when they occur

Those who don’t have cold sores can avoid getting them by avoiding kissing, oral sex and close contact with a person who has them.

Cold Sore Treatment

Although there is currently no current cure for HSV-1 and HSV-2, there are many treatments and medicines available to combat the symptoms and effectively manage the virus. Most cold sores clear up within 7-10 days, but tablets and creams can help to speed up the healing process and alleviate symptoms quicker – these include:

  • Aciclovir tablets
  • Valaciclovir tablets
  • Antiviral creams, which decrease the length and severity of outbreaks, address pain and speed up healing.

If you suffer from cold sores and are in need of treatment to ease symptoms, we can deliver your medication the very next day in discreet packaging, following a brief online consultation that will be evaluated by one of our experienced pharmacists. Please note that next-day delivery is available on all orders before 3pm, Monday through Friday.

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