Cold sores are the bane of many an existence. Around 90 percent of adults on earth test positive for the herpes simplex virus, or HSV-1, which is the cause of cold sores. While most people with HSV-1 will never show symptoms, some may struggle with recurring cold sore outbreaks that can put a real damper on their quality of life.
In general, cold sores last around seven to 10 days, and they can be brutal, causing extreme pain and discomfort, not to mention embarrassment at the unattractive sore that can break open, ooze, and crust back over.
When you experience that dreaded tingling that foretells a cold sore, it's time to take action. Although anti-viral medications are the only treatments that can shorten the life cycle of a cold sore outbreak, there are a number of home remedies that can reduce the pain and inflammation caused by cold sores. Here are some things you can do at home next time you get a cold sore, along with a few ways to help prevent them in the first place.
Make a Lemon Balm Compress
If you get cold sores often, grow some lemon balm in the garden. This citrusy herb is easy to grow, and it's effective for reducing the redness and swelling associated with a cold sore. Prepare a lemon balm compress by chopping two tablespoons of fresh lemon balm leaves or using one heaping tablespoon of dried leaves. Pour one cup of boiling water over the leaves, and let them steep for 10 or 15 minutes. Soak a soft cotton cloth in the tea, and apply the cloth to the cold sore for 30 to 45 minutes.
While ice won't reduce the duration of the cold sore, it can reduce the discomfort and inflammation. Don't apply ice directly to the cold sore, but rather hold a cold compress on the sore for as long as needed for temporary relief.
Try Aloe Vera
Aloe vera can be grown as a houseplant, or you can purchase 100 percent aloe vera gel at your local pharmacy. Aloe vera soothes the skin, and its anti-inflammatory properties can help prevent a cold sore from getting worse. Apply aloe vera directly to the sore three times a day to promote healing and reduce pain.
It can be tempting to touch the cold sore or pick at it once the intensity of the pain dies down. Resist the urge. Touching the cold sore can spread it to other parts of your body, and it can make the outbreak worse and extend the time it takes to heal. Keep your hands away from the sore, and wash your hands often to help prevent spreading.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress can bring the herpes virus out of dormancy. If you suffer from frequent cold sore outbreaks, stress could be part of the problem. Reducing stressors in your life and keeping stress under control through meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical exercise can help prevent cold sores altogether.
Sun exposure can cause a cold sore flare-up, and it can make an existing cold sore worse. Always wear a lip balm with sunscreen when you're outside, and apply it regularly to protect your lips while the cold sore is healing.
Know What Triggers Your Cold Sores
If you break out in cold sores frequently, keep a journal, and record the conditions that were present when the outbreak occurred. Were you under a lot of stress? Exposed to the sun? Fatigued? Ill with a cold or flu? Once you begin to understand what triggers your outbreaks, you can take steps to reduce your exposure to the triggers and prevent cold sores from occurring.