Everyone has plenty of advice and comments when cold sore develops. People that experience them regularly will have heard the same advice and thoughts repeatedly over the years. Most of the remarks are spoken in kindness and others are simply a matter of misinformation. However, there are beliefs and common cliches that do nothing to help and may even hinder the healing process. Here are the top statements to avoid in favor of reserving your efforts for something more helpful.
#1. That is what happens when you get a fever.
Cold sores are not caused by a fever. This belief led to the nickname, fever blisters. However, a weakened immune system may lead to the development of a cold sore. This is why they do sometimes appear during cold and flu season. There is the chance that a random fever may actually be caused by a developing cold sore and not the opposite. People vulnerable to random outbreaks should consider a fever and tender lymph nodes as a red flag to an impending cold sore appearance and should act early to prevent it from happening.
#2. So, you have herpes?
This is an offensive comment to many people because it usually suggests that the cold sore sufferer is an STD carrier. Yes, cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. However, it is Type 1 and not Type 2. Clear up the confusion whenever possible but do not waste time worrying about the “herpes’ label. They may not realize it but statistically, the people making these comments are more likely than not to also be infected with HSV-1.
#3. I kissed someone with a cold sore. How soon before I get one?
The virus that causes cold sores is very contagious and can spread through a simple kiss, but it is not like a cold virus. It is not caught and healed and then recaught another time. Once someone has the virus it will remain in their system for life. This is why most people will contract the disease during childhood and often through a kiss from a well-meaning adult relative. Most people with the virus will never have a single cold sore. Kissing someone will not necessarily make one appear. It is also just as likely to contract the virus and get a cold sore from someone that is infected but has no visible lesion at the time of the kiss. Stop worrying about where it was contracted and focus on preventing outbreaks instead.
#4. Stay away from salt.
That bit of advice should actually read, “stay away from salty foods”. Commercially salted foods like chips and pretzels have coarse salt on the surface that irritates cold sores and may make them red and swollen and encourage people to touch or rub at the lesion more frequently. This could further aggravate the problem. The point to remember is that salt (on its own) is and a natural disinfectant that may help to reduce some inflammation. A swish with warm salt water once or twice a day may help to help relieve the discomfort and cleanse the area.
#5. Take some lysine.
There is evidence that lysine helps to reduce the duration of cold sores and may prevent future outbreaks. The problem with popping a lysine supplement regularly is that is could lead to abdominal pain, kidney stones and regularity issues. Milk is a natural source of lysine and is a much more natural and safe way to boost the level in the body. Upping your intake of whole milk to a glass or two a day and using milk compresses when a cold sore is beginning or already developed is just as effective as a supplement but without the side effects.
The one cliche to always follow is when people say to treat the cold sore at the very first sign of development. This usually means a tingling, burning sensation somewhere around the mouth. The Inhibitor is an easy way to accomplish this task. It is a small, handheld device that is battery operated and produces a mild charge that disrupts the growth of the sore. It is useful for developing and existing lesions as well as other blemishes. In-between uses it stores easily in a handbag, backpack or cupboard.