This article is about the very common complaint of Cold Sores or fever blisters. It has been estimated that 4 out of 5 persons have been exposed to the virus and 90% of adults test positive for evidence of the virus. The following highlighted topics on Cold Sores or fever blisters, aim to present all you need to know about the issue. It is empowering to understand the infection and take charge of your health to minimize the frequency and severity of the recurrent episodes.
What Is A Cold Sore Or Fever Blister?
A cold sore, also called fever blister, is typically a small single blister or a cluster of blisters caused by a virus. This virus is called Herpes simplex labialis (Herpes simplex 1). This virus is not to be confused with Herpes simplex 2 which is a sexually transmitted infection. The viral infection is contagious and usually attacks the skin and the nervous system. It is common for the blister to appear on the lips, outer edges of the lips or on the nose. The tingling associated with the infection is as a result of the effect the virus has on the nerve endings.
How Is It Transmitted?
The virus enters the body through broken skin and is spread when an uninfected person kisses or comes into contact with the body fluid of an infected person. The virus can be left on the surfaces of items for example utensils and drinking vessels. This mode of transmission is important to prevent the infection and transmission of the viral infection. The virus remains dormant at the root of nerves and will become active periodically.
The Stages Of The Infection
- The initial signal that something is wrong begins with a tingling on the lip or around the edges of the lip.
- The fluid-filled blister or cluster of blisters then appears.
- The area around the blister(s) often becomes red, swollen and painful.
- The blisters break open and leak clear fluid.
- A scab is formed after a few days.
- The area heals up within a week, even without the use of medication.
The common symptoms, in addition to the cold sore, are:
- Sore throat
- Muscle ache
- Swollen lymph glands
It has been recognized that there are some diseases and conditions which predispose patients to Cold Sores or fever blisters when the body’s immune system is suppressed. Here are a few:
- Stress (mental or physical)
- Severe burns
- Drugs used to suppress rejection in organ transplant
It is important to be aware of complications which could arise from the fever blisters and they include: widespread area of the skin being infected; transmission of the infection to the fingertips, eyes and involvement of other organs including the genitals.
These complications can occur in individuals with other illnesses which weaken the immune system. Undernourished persons are also at risk of having the aforementioned complications should they become infected.
Standard treatments include the use of anti-viral topical creams and oral tablets. Acyclovir is a popular generic drug and there are other improved related drugs which require 1-2 tablets twice daily dosage compared with 1-2 tablets five times daily.
A popular over the counter treatment is Docosamol (Abreva). Where there is swelling associated with the cold sore, a cortisone shot is given to reduce this.
Other treatments are the standard remedies for the relief of pain, fever and headache. Acetaminophen, paracetamol and other popular over the counter preparations are good choices.
It must be stressed that these anti-viral creams and tablets do not cure the body of the cold sore virus. They act effectively to shorten the course of the ‘flare-up’ or ‘break out’ and reduce the severity of the fever blister.
It is said that the cold sore virus is so prevalent that 4 out of every 5 persons have been exposed to the virus. For those who have never had an episode of fever blisters the following recommendations will reduce your risk of exposure to the virus:
- Avoid kissing or having oral sex with a partner who has the fever blisters. The virus can infect the genitals.
- Do not share toothbrush, eating utensils and drinking cups with individuals who have active fever blisters or are prone to break-outs.
- Wash hands often especially after being out in public places.
For persons who already have the infection, you can prevent or reduce the recurrent flare-ups by practicing the recommendations above in addition to the following:
- Change toothbrush after an episode of fever blister(s).
- Avoid touching the infected lip and then other parts of your body such as the eyes and genitalia. Wash hands often.
- Deal with stressors causing you to be stressed, unhappy or nervous.
A Special Note About Babies And Children
Oftentimes the blisters are missed in babies and children as they can appear just inside the mouth. They could be confused with ‘canker sores’.
The cold sore is the likely cause of the blister(s) especially if the care-giver has or recently had an infection.
Avoid the practice of family and friends kissing babies and children on the mouth. This must be firmly discouraged. The immune system is underdeveloped in children and this makes them vulnerable to infections.
Know Your Triggers
The rule of thumb for taking charge of your health is to learn as much as possible about the illness and the course of the illness. There are those chronic recurrent illnesses which are exacerbated by triggers which include; stressful conditions, trauma, activities and even foods or medicines.
Fever blisters have well established triggers. Here are a few:
- Sunlight: apply sun blocks when you plan to be out door for an extended period.
- Dry chapped lips: keep lips moist, use a lip balm.
- Stress: be proactive and anticipate problems with a view of mitigating them, practice good time management.
- A compromised immune system: boost your health with supplements formulated for this purpose.
- Trauma to the skin: this must be appropriately cleaned and dressed with and antiseptic or antibiotic preparation to promote quick healing.
Taking note of your trigger(s) will help you to act preemptively to reduce the frequency and severity of the breakouts.
Self-help is appropriate as the early initiation of a remedy could reduce the severity of an illness or health condition if applied correctly. It should also be seriously considered when having a medical consultation is not an immediate action that can be taken or when no medical help is available.
Healthy individuals have a better chance of warding off contagious infections as their defense system, which includes the immune system; mount a strong barrier to germs. It then follows that a healthy diet, regular physical activity and adequate sleep/ rest are the minimal support our bodies require to be healthy.
Tips For Keeping Healthy:
- Healthy Diet/ Well balanced nutrition
- 3-5 servings of fruits daily
- 3-4 servings of vegetable daily
- Legumes (peas and beans)
- Carbohydrates with low glycemic index
- Regular Physical Activity
- Walking, power walking or jogging
- Low or high impact aerobics
- Resistance training
- Pilate, tai chi, yoga
- Adequate sleep, rest and recreation
- 6-8 hours of quality, restorative sleep
- Appropriate rest throughout the day
- Engagement in relaxing ,fun activities
Other very important reminders are the positive impact of stress management and relaxation on boosting the body’s innate ability to heal itself. The mind-body synergy is at work here.
Apply cold compress or ice to the fever blister to alleviate the pain during the acute phase of the infection.
For practitioners and users of natural medicine, there are a few remedies in the arsenal of the naturopathic doctor, used to treat and soothe fever blisters:
- Lip balm with 1% lemon extract
- An amino acid called Lysine which is found in vegetables, beans, fish, turkey and chicken
- Stress reduction using relaxation techniques such as deep-breathing exercise and meditation
The key message for dealing with Cold Sores /fever blisters is to learn as much as you can about the infection.
Take charge of your health and keep healthy by maintaining and where possible, improving on your nutrition. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetable daily. Aim to have a colorful plate for your meal, here are some suggestions: green( spinach, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce), red( tomatoes, beetroot, cabbage, turnip, radish ), yellow(squash, cucumber, bell peppers), purple (cabbage, onion, aubergine) and orange (carrots, pumpkin).
Supplements are recommended if for whatever reason you are unable to have healthy meals all the time. The supplement should contain vitamins A, C, and E, these boosts the immune system. Zinc is a mineral which promotes healing. B vitamins especially B6 repair damages nerve endings.
Keep physically active and do what is appropriate for your age, weight and health. Never start an exercise program without first consulting with your healthcare provider. This is especially important for persons with heart problems. Be confident, positive, optimistic and happy. Do not allow the appearance of Cold Sores or fever blisters to erode your confidence. The course and severity can be shortened by over the counter OTC medication. The clever use of cosmetics can cover the ‘telltale signs’ and give you a boost in confidence. Clikck Here to Know How I get rid of my cold score quikly and permanently!