If you suffer from cold sores, you are not alone. Over 60% of the population have suffered from them at some point in their lives. Also known as fever blisters and oral herpes, these are the facts on cold sores.….
- Cold sores are highly contagious but not dangerous.
- The outbreak usually appears on the mouth and lips.
- They are different for each individual but usually occur 2-3 times a year.
- There is no cure for cold sores but there are a number of treatments and medications available that can help reduce the pain, prevent dryness and cracking of the lips. Treatments can also relieve symptoms and get rid of outbreaks faster. These are usually liquids, gels or ointments that are applied directly to the sores.
- A virus called herpes simplex 1, is the cause of cold sores
- It lives within the body’s nerve cells in a dormant (inactive) state in about 80% of the population.
- If the body’s immune system is weakened the virus will spread quickly down from the nerve cell to the skin and usually forms sores on the lips.
There are several conditions which trigger the virus to become active and multiply. The following are examples.
- Fatigue along with mental and physical stress.
- Cold weather or too much sunlight.
- Physical irritation of the lips.
- The menstrual period can also cause a weakened immune system and hormonal imbalance which can trigger outbreaks.
- Having a cold, the flu or a fever.
The virus is spread through physical contact. If a person comes in direct contact with the fluid inside the cold sore it can be transmitted to others in a number of ways. It spreads through shared contact. Towels,cutlery, doorknobs, lipstick, cups and anything else that gets touched can be contaminated with the virus and then spread to a new person when they come in contact with that contaminated object.
If you suffer from cold sores you know that prior to an outbreak, usually the day before, you will get some warning signs such as a tingling, numbness or burning sensation on the spots where the outbreak will occur. Treat these spots right away, even before the sores appear.
The first 3-5 days when the cold sores are breaking out are the most painful. When the sores crust over and with the use of soothing ointments the discomfort can be lessoned. The complete cycle of an outbreak can be as long as ten to fifteen days before the cold sores are completely gone.
The herpes simplex 1 virus is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching. Wash your hands a lot during outbreaks and be aware that the virus can be transmitted to the genitals through oral sex which can lead to genital herpes. It is estimated that about 25% of American adults have genital herpes.
The virus usually breaks out in the lips but can also affect the inside of the mouth and around the nostrils. Take care and know that it can be spread to all areas of your body if touched by your hands if they have come in contact with the virus. Be aware of this contagious nature of the virus and exercise more caution than normal with washing and touching anything.
Unfortunately the simplex 1 virus never goes away. You can, however, lessen your chances of an outbreak by preventing triggers from occurring. Use sunscreen SPF 30 or higher on your lips when you are outside. Keep your immune system healthy by eating a healthy balanced diet and by exercising for about 30 minutes, 5 days a week. It can be as simple as going for a brisk walk.
- Get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue and stress which weaken the immune system.
- Use a lip balm everyday, preferably one that contains sunscreen to prevent your lips drying out.
- Make sure to cover your face and mouth with a scarf in winter, especially on windy days.
If you are prone to cold sore breakouts the best thing that you can do is to battle them from the inside out with a healthy lifestyle. Recognize what triggers your outbreaks and avoid those situations. When you know that the cold sores are coming, start doing battle right away with topical treatments to lessen the severity and length of the attacks.
Good luck out there.