Coldsores - Triggers and Treatments

Coldsores - Triggers and Treatments

It’s the morning of your big job interview and you’re just getting ready when you feel it; that awful, familiar tingling that signals the start of a cold sore.

But don’t panic - an outbreak need not be the end of the world. Help is at hand, and in this article, you’ll find information on what a cold sore is, what types of treatments are available over the counter in Ireland, and what you can do to minimize the risk of outbreaks reoccurring. So, relax, read the below, and let us look after you.

How do I know if I have a cold sore?

Cold sores are characterised by small, painful blisters that develop after exposure to a very common virus called the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV).  Cold sores can appear anywhere on the body but are most likely to develop around the lower lips and the outside of the mouth.

The sores appear as small clusters of blisters, which are filled with clear fluid. People commonly ask, what’s the difference between a cold sore and a spot? The answer is, that an easy way to distinguish between the two is to remember that spots are usually filled with pus, whilst cold-sores are filled with a clear fluid.

What causes cold sores?

The Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is an extremely contagious oral virus which is passed from person to person by direct contact with infected skin or infected saliva. Several days after the virus has entered the body, a blister may form on the site of infection, this is the most contagious period.

Cold sores will usually heal after several days, but the virus can remain dormant in the body and sores can resurface in the same area throughout a persons’ lifetime.  Recurrence of outbreaks can be caused by triggers which vary from person to person, common triggers include; 

  • Sunlight (UV exposure)
  • Stress (Internal Link)
  • Cold Weather
  • Weakened Immune System

In order to prevent outbreaks, identify your triggers and avoid them; stay out of the sun or use a lip balm with an SPF, learn to manage your stress and keep your immune system healthy with diet and exercise.

How to cure a cold sore?

Most cold sores will heal completely within two to five weeks without scarring, although for some, symptoms can be severe and persistent and interfere with everyday life. During a flare-up, cold sores are highly contagious and can be passed on through direct and close contact.

The use of over the counter anti-viral creams and gels can ease symptoms, particularly when treated in the early tingling stage. 

There are many over the counter medicines for treating cold sores available in all CarePlus Pharmacies, the most common of which are creams containing Aciclovir (Zovirax) or creams like Cymex which contain several active ingredients.

To help prevent outbreaks from reoccurring you can take certain vitamins to bolster your immune system, like Vitamin C and Zinc, or supplements containing L-Lysine which helps to reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

If you have any concerns or require more information on cold sores, please speak to your local CarePlus Pharmacist today.