How to quickly treat cold sores

By Dr. Stephanie McGannDMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

Got a Cold Sore? Here’s How to Treat It Quickly. A cold sore always crops up at just the wrong time. Nobody likes to have an ugly sore on their lip or corner of their mouth. Finding which cold sore treatment works best for you can help speed along its healing. And that’s why we’re here. Cold sores usually last 7-10 days but how you manage them will impact their size, duration and painfulness.

Maybe It Isn’t a Cold Sore? Let’s clear the air about what a cold sore is and isn’t. Cold sores are contagious blisters that usually appear on your lips or around your mouth. Caused by a virus, cold sores usually start with a tingling sensation, evolve into numerous tiny, painful blisters, and later crust over. The Cold sore virus (Herpes Simplex) lives in the body after the initial infection. It can be activated to form a sore by many external factors. Reducing those factors can reduce the frequency and severity of the outbreaks.Canker sores, on the other hand, aren’t contagious, but they still sting. Unlike cold sores, they usually appear as white oval lesions inside your mouth, especially near or on your gums or under your tongue.

Remedies for Cold Sores The key to treating a cold sore is acting fast. As soon as the first symptom appears, consider these steps to move the healing process along quickly:

  • Apply Ice to the Cold Sore At the first sign, grab an ice cube, wrap it in a paper towel, place it where you feel the cold sore coming on, and let it melt. Back-to-back applications can reduce the pain.

.Switch to a Cold-Sore-Fighting Diet You can boost your immune system’s fight against this viral nuisance with the right foods. Fill your plate with cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, and avoid foods with arginine, a cold-sore-triggering amino acid found in nuts, chocolate, and oats. If you are prone to developing cold sores, a diet with less arginine may help.

  • Dial Down the Stress. One of the most common causes of cold sores is,stress. Minimizing stress these days can get so complicated that it causes more stress. Try giving yourself some time for the restorative, restful activities that drop your heart rate and raise your smile.

Wear a sunscreen SPF 30 lip balm. Many people have a cold sore outbreak related to exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. There are some lip balms that claim to also help heal an outbreak, most of these have lemon balm  in them.

  • Reach for Aloe Vera or Even an Over-The-Counter Cream Both natural and medicinal creams have shown promise as cold sore remedies. Some studies suggest that aloe vera can help the fever blister heal, and over-the-counter creams, like docosanol, (Abreva) also may speed healing.  Prefer the medicinal route? There are prescription anti-viral medications that can shorten the duration of an outbreak.
  • Relieve Pain with Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen Some cold sores can get really painful. For those intense ones, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may provide well-needed relief. Always be sure to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for the pain remedy that is right for you.
  • A dental office may be able to help. If it’s caught early a dentist can prescribe anti-virals and perhaps offer some of the newer laser therapies that can lessen the pain and duration of a cold sore. Your dental professional is usually up to date on the latest remedies for this common problem.

There you have it. You’re on the fast track to treating that cold sore quickly. Don’t forget to smile!

Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and owns and practices at Rainbow Valley Dental, in Valley. She is a past President of the Chester/Delaware Dental Society and she is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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