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There are several natural therapies to get rid of cold sores which are less costly and without the side effects of the cold sore medicines.

Cold sores-caused by herpes virus

Cold sores are tiny eruptions on the skin which are very painful. They generally erupt around the mouth, i.e. on the lips and on the nose. They last for a few days and have a tendency to recur. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus.

The herpes simplex virus is of two types- type I and type II and is easily spread from one person to another. The herpes simplex type I virus is responsible for cold sores. It spreads by kissing, coming in contact with the cold sore or by the infected saliva. A person infected with herpes virus may spread infection to others through his skin where a cold sore is yet to erupt. A cold sore passes through various stages before healing. Immediately after eruption, a cold sore is filled with a fluid. This stage is highly contagious. Within a few days, the fluid dries up and the cold sore appears shriveled and crusted. The risk of spreading infection to other person on coming in contact with the sore at this stage is comparatively lower. The sore completely heals up in about six weeks without leaving any mark behind. But the infected person may continue shedding herpes virus in his saliva even after the cold sore has healed. At times, the cold sore may be associated with painful eruptions on the shin which are called as ‘erythema nodosum’. They too heal on their own in about six weeks.

The first attack of cold sores generally appears in childhood itself after coming in contact with infected saliva. It may not be associated with any other symptom of viral infection or there may be difficulty in swallowing food and water which may require intervention by a doctor. Once contacted, the herpes virus is harbored by the nerve cells and conditions like undue apprehension, stress, exposure to sun or extreme cold bring about certain changes which activate this virus. High grade fever, flu, skin injury and even menstruation may trigger these changes. The activation of the dormant herpes virus may result in the recurrence of the cold sores.

Natural therapies to get rid of cold sore

There are several natural therapies to get rid of cold sores which are less costly and without the side effects of the cold sore medicines.

Regular exercising and relaxation techniques like yoga improve the body’s immune system and help to fight off stress, thereby reducing the severity and duration of the illness. Using a sunscreen routinely can also reduce the frequency of outburst of cold sores in people where sun exposure is the triggering factor.

Simple measures like washing hands frequently and using separate items of personal hygiene like towels, shaving blades, cups and dishes goes a long way in preventing the spread of cold sores. Aromatherapy is a good natural therapy to get rid of cold sores. Applying oils like lemon balm, tea tree, geranium and bergamot is believed to hasten the healing process and a quick way to get rid of cold sores. Lemon balm ointment is a good herbal means of getting rid of cold sores. It has both anti-viral action which is beneficial against cold sores and an antiseptic action which is helpful against secondary bacterial infections.

Application of ice as soon as tingling or tightening of skin is felt is again an effective natural therapy to get rid of cold sores. It is said the cooling effect of ice slows down the replication of the herpes virus so that the cold sores either do not appear or their severity is very much reduced. To be effective, ice should be applied to the affected area for at least thirty minutes which is easier said than done, but the benefits certainly outweigh the discomfort.

Change in diet- an effective way of getting rid of cold sores

Believe it or not, bringing a few changes in your diet is an effective way of getting rid of cold sores. Certain essential amino acids have been shown to have a bearing on the cold sores. An amino acid named lysine has been found to have a beneficial effect on the cold sores – its ingestion helps in faster healing of the sores. On the contrary, another essential amino acid called as arginine can lead to outbreak of cold sores. Both these amino acids vie with each other to get absorbed through the intestines. Reducing the amount of one in the diet leads to increased absorption of the other.

Changing diet in a manner that the amount of lysine ingested is deliberately increased while simultaneously decreasing the intake of arginine is an effective way of getting rid of cold sores. Lysine is found in abundant quantity in dairy products, red meat, certain sea food, cheese, red meat and wheat germ. It can also be taken as dietary supplements. Food rich in arginine which should be avoided by people suffering from cold sores include peanuts, chocolate and almonds.

Lactobacillus acidophilus naturally found in yogurt has also been found to help in healing the cold sores while aiding digestion. Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables boosts the natural defense system of the body resulting in faster healing of the cold sores. Thus we see that bringing certain small but well thought out changes in our diet is an effective way of getting rid of cold sores.

Medical treatments available to get rid of cold sores

There are various medical treatments available to get rid of cold sores. The different medications available can be either for local application on the cold sores or to be taken orally. Lipactin and Zilactin gel contain anesthetic agents like Benzocaine, lidocaine, etc which numb the affected area and thus provide symptomatic relief from the pain and itching associated with the cold sores.

Products like petroleum and dimethicone jelly prevent the cold sore from cracking. Docosanol cream when used topically at the earliest helps in reducing the duration of the outbreak. It should be applied at least five times daily.

Anti- viral medications like acyclovir and penciclovir are available in the form of ointments for local application to get rid of cold sores. However, they have limited efficacy as they cannot penetrate deep enough to prevent the herpes virus from multiplying. But when these anti- viral medicines are taken as oral medication after doctor’s prescription, they are found to decrease the time for which the outbreak of cold sores lasts. But it is advisable to start the treatment in the initial phase of the outbreak to achieve the maximum benefit. Some of the commonly prescribed anti viral medicines are acyclovir, Valacyclovir and famiciclovir. The latter two are not recommended for use in children below twelve years of age. In addition to these medications available to get rid of cold sores, painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen may be taken to get some relief from the pain associated with the cold sores.

Thus we see that though it is not possible to avoid cold sores from erupting, by following these tips, we can get rid of the cold sores as early as possible.