Health Matters: Help and advice about cold sores

graham hibbins
Graham Hibbins

Graham Hibbins, from Strachan’s Chemist in Uppermill, offers some help and advice about cold sores

FOLLOWING ON the theme of last month’s article about ‘kissing disease’ (glandular fever), this time I am going to look at cold sores.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, usually passed on in early childhood when a child is kissed by someone infected with a cold sore.

The virus passes through the skin, up the nerves and then lies dormant until it is triggered in later life. The virus is highly contagious and can be passed on from person to person by direct contact, especially when sores are oozing.

Cold sores often start with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around the mouth. This is followed by small fluid-filled sores, typically on the edges of the lower lip, which develop into small blisters. If there are no complications they normally clear up in about a week.

Outbreaks are usually triggered when someone is run down or under stress, but can also be caused by strong sunlight (use a sun block stick), injury to the affected areas or during menstruation.

There are many old wives’ tales for treating cold sores, but the most effective method is applying an antiviral cold sore cream as soon as the tingling sensation starts. It doesn’t work very well after the outbreak.

These creams can be purchased from most pharmacies relatively cheaply and must be applied five times a day for five days. Dab the cream on rather than rubbing it in, and wash your hands before and after applying the cream. Try to avoid touching the cold sore and NEVER share your cream with others.

Usually the sores heal without too much distress (unless you have an important meeting or date!).

I would recommend avoiding salty or acidic foods and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Use your own towels and cutlery; don’t share makeup and lipstick and take care around newborns babies and seriously ill patients.

If the cold sore is severe or occurring frequently causing concern, you can get anti-viral tablets from your GP. As always, your pharmacist is also on hand to offer help and advice.

Next month, I am going to talk about that pain in the neck!


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