Since the age of 4 years old, little old me has had a lifelong struggle with (dare I say it) coldsores. If you are yet to learn about coldsores; you’re in my eyes extremely lucky!
A coldsore is a very unpleasant nasty-looking blister that unexpectadly graces your face with it’s presence – without prior warning, whenever it wants; at any given time. This unsightly sore is not in any way as serious and scary as it looks, but in a beauty obsessed world, it can make you want to hide under your pillow for days even weeks, until it goes away.
On this very late Wednesday evening, or should I say very early Thursday morning, after being plagued with a series of sores on my lower lip (for the millionth time) and my neighbours little boy screeching when he saw my face this evening – I thought I would invest a little time in helping you understand what coldsores are, how they can be treated and provide you with some preventative measures and home remedies to keep them at bay for as long as possible.
So here goes…
What are coldsores?
Coldsores aren’t the plague. They are small clusters of blisters that develop on and around the lips, mouth and sometimes the nose. They are caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and depending on severity and number of blisters in a single breakout, usually clear up (if left alone) without treatment within 7 to 14 days. Whilst they are highly contagious (if your suseptable), they aren’t the plague. I repeat, they are not the plague. They are usually transferred from one person to the next from lip to lip contact immediately prior to a coldsore breakout.
The symptoms can vary, some people develop them overnight. The majority of people tend to feel a sharp shooting, or tingling sensation in a small spot or area around the mouth and/or nose. That sensation for me I would describe as a “pumping” sensation… almost like when you bite your lip, and all the blood rushes to the part of your lip that has been bitten. Sometimes it feels like a pulse, other times like a little tickle or itch that needs to be scratched.
When are they contagious?
Coldsores tend to be contagious as soon as a person feels the tingling I mention above. This is when the virus is active. Soon after this sensation peeks, the person will experience blistering and swelling, at this point the virus is still present but only for as long as these blisters are filled with liquid and continue to pulsate. As soon as the blisters break and scab-over, the virus is no longer active – at which point the coldsore looks it’s worst.
Most people, once the initial infection is contracted, have the virus for the rest of their life. Don’t be frightened… some people have them once, and then never again. Others get them once or twice a year. And a minority of people (of which I am doomed to be part of) get them regularly.
Triggers for those who suffer often
A coldesore sufferer will learn to recognise a pattern in their breakouts. Like allergies, coldsores have triggers that are different and unique to each person. Weather related changes, food irritations, stress, fatigue, dehydration and menstruation are just a few of the triggers associated with coldsore breakouts.
The trick is to, if you suffer, find your triggers. Mine are below…
- Anything that brushes past my lips, or continuously tickles my lip (like my hair blowing in the wind)
- Spicy foods that contain chilli or hot peppers
- Gushing seaside winds (I live on the coast and the salt in the air doesn’t help me at all)
- Strong toothpastes
- Having a cold (after all it’s where the name comes from)
- Dry or cracked lips
- Poorly washed glasses in pubs/bars/restaurants
- Season changes
As you can see I have quite severe and almost silly triggers, and to think… I was simply passed on the virus from one little kiss as a child, from my father (who apologises profusely whenever we meet, he merely has to look at me and I have a breakout).
Treatments, Prevention & beauty tricks
Coldsores can’t be prevented as such, but there are a few measures that can be taken to ensure a breakout doesn’t happen as often. Along with over the counter medications and remedies that can make having coldsores a little easier.
- Always carry some Acyclovir (or Zovirax) in your handbag/purse, as a coldsore sufferer, this is as good as it gets, it’s the holy grail of coldsore medications and if you feel that dreaded tickle, slap a little of this antiviral magic on. It only works at the early stages prior to blistering (I’ve found).
- Take an anti-histamine and an anti-inflammatory. Sometimes coldsores are a result of an allergic reaction and your immune system flaring up.
- Make sure your lips are moisturised with a good quality rich lip balm. I like Nivea Essential Lip Care stick or Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm – both are sufficient enough to keep your lips nourished in all seasons.
- Try and wear a scarf in the Autumn and Winter months and when the wind blows on your face, simply tuck your neck and chin in and shield your lips from the cold air. This little trick, for me, has stopped numerous breakouts.
- When you feel a breakout coming on, get a small bag of ice or an ice pack and press it on to the area of your lip that is pulsating. The ice will numb the area and stop the virus in it’s tracks.
- Spreading a bit of strong floral perfume on the area you usually get coldsores as a preventative measure can help. As well as once you have the sore, dabbing perfume in to the wound, whilst not for the faint hearted, works wonders and helps the sore heal quickly.
- Eat honey. Drink honey. Use honey-based product. I don’t know why but this seems to help fight against future breakouts.
- Aloe Vera! This herbal ingredient, used in a lot of beauty products and moisturisers, with it’s soothing properties, seems to limit the size and spread of a breakout. For those who are unlucky to have more than one at a time. (No? Just me?)
So I bet you’re wondering why I have indulged in writing this post, a post that is only slightly beauty related. But hopefully, amongst all of you beautiful blog readers, a few of you suffer like I do and are looking for a tip or two.
And those of you that are lucky to have never had a coldsore. Pass on these tips to somebody you know suffers with these pesky little things.
As always, thanks for reading.