Cold Sores*

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Cold sores are small painful blisters that form around the mouth. If you think you may have a cold sore, please read on for more information regarding the condition and the treatment options available to you...

What is a cold sore?

A cold sore is a skin infection which produces small painful blisters. They are highly contagious - especially when the blisters burst. Cold sores can also occur on the roof of your mouth, lips, tongue and insides of your cheeks. The cold sore itself is only temporary, and most will clear up on their own within seven to ten days.

How can I avoid cold sores in the future?

Cold sores are usually caused by HSV-1, a common form of the herpes simplex virus. The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually kissing on the lips. Cold sores can also be caused by HSV-2, which is the variant of herpes simplex that causes genital herpes. For this reason, having oral sex with someone who has genital herpes can lead to cold sores.

Once you have contracted herpes simplex, you cannot be cured of it. It enters your system and lays dormant, occasionally flaring up and causing cold sores throughout your life. This means it is very difficult to avoid getting cold sores again. However, there are some things that trigger the onset of a cold sore. These include:

  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Stress
  • Tiredness
  • Menstruation
  • Bright sunlight

If you have had cold sores in the past, the best thing you can do is watch out for early symptoms, especially if you are unwell, menstruating or stressed. If you can feel the early symptoms of tingling and burning around your mouth, apply an antiviral cream to the affected area.

How can I avoid passing cold sores to other people?

If you have the herpes simplex in your system, there is the danger of you spreading the virus to other people. Cold sores are at their most contagious when they have burst. Avoid intimate contact with people during this time.

You can also avoid spreading the virus by washing your hands after you have applied cold sore cream, and by avoiding sharing creams, lipsticks, cutlery or cups/glasses. You should also be particularly careful of spreading the virus to people with compromised immune systems and newborn babies.

How can I treat cold sores?

Unfortunately there are no evidence based NHS treatments available for cold sores. Instead, one of our pharmacists will provide advice on self care and the ongoing management of your symptoms using antiviral creams and cold sore patches.

To ease the pain and discomfort of a cold sore you should stay hydrated, avoid eating foods that are salty or acidic, and consider using an antiseptic mouthwash. If you book a consultation with one of our pharmacists, they can advise you on a number of the antiviral creams, tablets and patches we have available at Mayberry Pharmacy. (link to call back form).

Antiviral creams

Antiviral cold sore creams must be applied when symptoms first begin. The early symptoms of a cold sore include a tingling or burning sensation around the mouth. If you start to experience these symptoms, you should apply your cold sore cream as soon as possible. You will typically have to apply the cream 5 times a day for 5 days.

If you start to apply antiviral cream after the cold sore has fully developed, you are unlikely to see any improvement. We offer a variety of different antiviral creams, please speak to one of our experienced pharmacists to find out which product is best for you.

Cold sore patches

Cold sore patches are different to cold sore creams as they are applied after infection has developed. This makes them a good option if your cold sore is already present.

To use a cold sore patch, you peel it off and stick it over the cold sore. It works by helping the blister to heal, and also effectively covers the area. You should wear the patch until it peels off.

Antiviral tablets

In severe cases, you may require antiviral tablets. This will typically only be advised if you are experiencing complications from your cold sore. This is more of a risk if you have a compromised immune system. If you have a cold sore that is not going away, you should make an appointment with your GP.

Next steps…

There is no specific treatment for cold sores, but we do offer a wide range of remedies that can reduce symptoms. If you’re worried about your cold sore(s), please don’t hesitate to get in touch by booking a free telephone consultation with one of our experienced pharmacists for advice and support.

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