Is there anything more horrendous than having a cold sore? It's uncomfortable, itchy, it burns, it looks horrible and it takes a good week (if not more) to heal! No lipstick can hide it, and creams make it even more noticeable.
The first coldsore I had was the day before my mum's funeral. It wasn't just one cold sore. I had 4 massive blisters on my lips. I couldn't close my mouth properly and I looked like I had bad botox on my lips or got stung by a bee. At least I made my sister laugh.
I've had plenty of bad experiences with cold sores. I've had to cancel dentist appointments, dates, parties, nights out.. You name it. Luckily enough, I have tried pretty much everything to make the healing time shorter, easier, better and now I can say I hardly ever have bad, scabby coldsores anymore. Let me share with you what I have tried, what has worked for me and how I survive coldsores. Hopefully it will help you and make life that little bit easier.
Let's start from the beginning. Cold sores are little blisters that appear on the lips or around them. The NHS website explains it is a strain of the Herpes Simplex virus and it is extremely contagious. After someone contracts the virus, it can stay dormant and become active at a later date or never become active. Some of the triggers can be stress, fatigue, illness, sun and for us girls, menstruation.
Please be aware this virus is extremely contagious, especially after the rupture of the blister (still remains contagious until it has disappeared completely) and you should avoid kissing and close contact (sharing towels etc) with family, friends and loved ones. Additionally, you should always keep your hands clean, especially after you touch the cold sore or around it.
During the cold sore
That tingling sensation that if you've had it before makes you paranoid. As soon as you have an itchy lip you already think you are going to look like you had botox on one side of your lip. This is when you have to act. I use Zovirax cream (1) or any aciclovir/antiviral cream and this amazing little machine (2) at this stage to try to stop it immediately.
Creams can be very useful at this stage as it can stop the virus in its tracks. They work better at the tingling/burning sensation before the blister comes out.
The electronic device works with a narrow infrared light wave that enhances the local immune response to the infection. It has been clinically proven that used at the tingling phase it can stop the virus and at the blister or rupture phase it can speed up the healing time. This is a life saviour for me, I use it as soon as I feel a small tingling sensation and I have really seen results. In the past year I have had less cold sores and the healing time has improved considerably.
In addition to all this, I was as well prescribed Zovirax in tablets by a doctor so I take that every 4h during the whole infection. I have heard of people that do short periods where they take 1 tablet a day to prevent outbreaks in tough times such as winter or stressful times. I have never done it so cannot say whether it works or not. If you have really bad cold sores go see a doctor and they might be able to prescribe you tablets. If you are in pain don't hesitate to see a doctor or pharmacist and you can take some ibuprofen (with food as it can hurt your stomach) in small doses to help the pain.
During the blister/rupture phase, I swear by (3) Urgo filmogel. I cannot find it here in the UK but you can get it on amazon. I was told by my pharmacist in Spain about it and it is definitely my go to treatment during cold sores. It comes as a little bottle with a liquid inside and 24 plastic applicators. It creates a light film over the cold sore when in contact with air and protects the damaged area and keeps the virus from spreading. You need to reapply a few times a day (especially after eating) and if the wound is open it will burn a little when applying but once it's there you won't feel it at all. Use it until the cold sore has completely disappeared. In between reapplications I use the electronic device to speed up healing and boost the immune system in the area.
You can find in UK pharmacies patches such as the compeed ones (4). These are like small round transparent plasters that like the gel protects the area. With these you can use make up on top as it is plastic. However I find they are too big for my lips a part of it is on the wet side of the lip and another part is too far out the lip and it looks weird like I have very wrinkly skin. Plus I have found that wearing it for too long can create a rash under the plaster and it becomes more itchy than the actual cold sore. However I do use them when I dont have any filmogel at hand at they do work.
I have tried quite a few home remedies for cold sores and to be honest they haven't done much but if you rather not use chemicals, you can try an ice cube on the blister (cover it with a tea towel before using as it might spread the virus) this will help the burning and the swollen lip; cold yoghurt on the cold sore and aloe vera. You can check out more home remedies here. I would only recommend to stay away from citrusy fruit as the virus thrives in an acidic environment. As well, avoid alcohol when you have a cold sore as it can make it worse.
After the infection, make sure you have a good repairing cream/lip balm as your lips will be very dehydrated and avoid any touching, picking of dry skin at all costs as you might pierce the skin and have another cold sore come out! I use Elizabeth Arden's eight hour intensive repair lip balm and with plenty of water my lips are back to normal in a couple days.
As a preventative method, make sure you take care of your lips when you are a bit under the weather like in winter and in summer make sure you use a lip balm with high SPF. Take vitamins such as cod liver oil and Echinacea as it will keep your immune system in top shape. Take time to de-stress and have plenty of sleep (between 6 and 8h per night). And if you are prone to cold sores make sure you always have some Zovirax in your bag.
I hope you find this useful and if you have any questions you can post them on the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org