How to Reduce the Duration of an Outbreak
Some cold sores appear no matter how careful people are about their diet, hygiene or health. The Herpes Simplex Type 1 virus (HSV-1) remains in the body and outbreaks are often spontaneous and arise too quickly for preventative steps. The only solution is to look for ways to reduce the length of time they remain. A typical cold sore will last between 1-2 weeks if not treated. Cold sore remedies may reduce this time period by as little as a couple of days or as much as a week. Every person is different and there is no way to determine exactly what will work best. There are basically three different remedy methods to consider. These are natural remedies, medications and inhibitors. Here is what people should know about each of these potential solutions.
Using Natural Remedies
Lysine: Milk compresses, using whole milk, are sometimes beneficial because milk contains lysine. Lysine is an amino acid that is found in some foods and also available as a supplement. Research has shown that it has the ability to reduce the length of a flare up and may help to prevent future cold sores. Caution is advised when using the supplements because some people do experience stomach pain and digestive problems as a side effect. One medical study also linked lysine and kidney damage, so people should discuss it with their doctor before they begin taking supplements.
Licorice: Glycyrhizic acid in licorice root is an anti-inflammatory and has anti-viral properties. This may stop the virus from causing an outbreak. Consuming licorice will have very little benefit. The most useful method is to mix powdered licorice root with petroleum jelly to make a paste. Apply directly to the cold sore and leave overnight. Repeat daily.
Herbs and Oils: Essential oils are commonly used remedies. Apply lemon, peppermint and tea tree oil gently to the affected area. Echinacea, chamomile and lemon balm are the most recommended herbs along with Oregon grape root. These are consumed as tea or made into pastes and applied directly to the skin. Herbs can lead to allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to environmental allergens and some are not safe to take with certain medications. Anyone on a prescription medication should ask their pharmacist about the potential for an interaction before using an herb or supplement. Use essential oils carefully. Some must be diluted to prevent irritation to the skin and some are not consumable. Research each thoroughly before use.
Purchasing Inhibitor Devices
Cold sore inhibitors are a small device that uses an electronic charge to zap the cold sore. The sensation may feel like a tingle or small shock similar to a static charge. Most people will not feel anything at all. It disrupts the growth of the viral cells and causes the sore to fade away. There are two benefits for choosing an inhibitor. It shortens outbreaks and if used prior to the outbreak it may prevent it from appearing. Inhibitors are not only used to treat cold sores. Some models are useful for treating other viral outbreaks including genital herpes, shingles and moles. Cold sore inhibitors have the ability to shorten the duration over the outbreak by a week or more. Some people have even seen results in a matter of hours.
Choosing Medicinal Options
Prescription Medications: Prescription cold sore remedies are either topical or taken orally. There are several medications used for treating cold sores. Each option will shorten the length of the outbreak by 2-4 days. The topical medications help to reduce itching and burning. To be effective they must be applied up to six times a day. Some have potential side effects like stinging or causing rashes. Oral antiviral drugs are used to help prevent outbreaks and may reduce the duration of cold sores when they appear. This option does have side effects and is usually only prescribed to people who are chronic sufferers or have severe outbreaks when they do appear.
Over-the-counter Medications: OTC medication are topical treatments that use a medication mixed with an anesthetic. Some include bandages infused with their product to treat and hide the sore at the same time. Most topical medications will only help if they are used early in the outbreak when the cold sore blisters first appear.
What works for one person will not necessarily work as well for someone else. Repeated chronic outbreaks may require attempting multiple cold sore remedies until the best solution is discovered. Some remedies may not be safe for children, pregnant women and people with additional health concerns. Research is important before attempting any new remedy. There is no cure for HSV-1 or for cold sores. None of the remedies listed will immediately destroy the cold sore or prevent others from appearing.