It never fails. Every time you have a big meeting coming up or an important presentation to give, you develop an unsightly cold sore on your lip. You wake up with a small cluster of tiny, harmless-looking, white blisters, which quickly explode into a painful sore the size of Rhode Island. (OK, so maybe it just looks that big to you.)
Cover the Cold Sore
Covering a cold sore with petroleum jelly will speed healing and help protect it from secondary infection with bacteria. Putting a local anesthetic ointment containing benzocaine on the cold sore can also help numb the pain temporarily. However, attempting to camouflage a cold sore with makeup often aggravates the problem, as the chemicals in makeup can make the sore worse. And don’t share your lipstick or makeup, either.
Change Your Toothbrush
Get a new toothbrush after the blister has formed and again after the attack has cleared up. Toothbrushes can harbor the virus. Consult your health care provider if you have frequent or severe cold sores. In some cases, an antiviral medication called acyclovir can be prescribed.
Protect Your Lips from the Sun
Applying sunscreen to your lips may help prevent sun-induced recurrences of cold sores. Look for a sunscreen designed especially for the lips that has an SPF of 15 or higher. Or, choose a lipstick that contains sunscreen.
Don’t Touch It
Don’t squeeze, pinch or pick a cold sore. These actions can cause bacterial infection. Also, because cold sores are extremely contagious, avoid kissing and sharing cups, towels or other such items. Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching the cold sore. And take care not to touch your eyes or genitals immediately after touching the sore. It’s a good idea to have hand sanitizer with you in case you accidentally scratch your cold sore and there’s no wash basin handy.
When a cold sore’s not making itself a huge lip ache, it’s snoozing in the nerves below your skin, just waiting for a reason to wake up. And what sets off its alarm clock?
- Infection, colds and flu
- Ultraviolet radiation, such as a sunburn
- Changes in the immune system
- Food allergies
- Dental work
To help avoid some of these triggers, practice stress-busting techniques like exercise, meditation, yoga or reading. Avoid acidic and salty foods like potato chips or citrus fruits as they can further irritate cold sores and add to the pain.
Studies show that glycyrrhizic acid, an ingredient in licorice, stops the cold sore virus cells dead in their tracks — so try chewing a licorice whip. Just be sure it’s made from real licorice, as most “licorice” candy in the United States today is flavored with anise. If the ingredient list reads “licorice mass,” the product contains real licorice. You could also try buying some licorice powder and sprinkling it on the sore, or mix up a cream with a pinch of licorice power and a smidgen of pure vegetable shortening, then apply to the sore. Remember, though — don’t go overboard! Just as with any medicine, real licorice’s medicinal effects can cause serious side effects if used in large amounts over long periods of time.
If you ice a cold sore when it first arrives, you may cut down on the amount of time it hangs around. Ice packs and cold compresses will provide some temporary relief. A tasty popsicle will feel good, too, but skip the juice bars. Their acid content may irritate that major irritation even more. Super-cold drinks, such as slushes or smoothies, are another tasty way to provide comfort.
This remedy doesn’t involve drinking. Soak a cotton ball in milk and apply it to the sore to relieve pain. Better yet, if you feel the tell-tale tingling before the cold sore surfaces, go straight to the cold milk. It can help speed the healing right from the beginning.
Cold sores may be triggered by stress. During stressful times, sucking on zinc lozenges can boost the immune system.
Cold sores aren’t the most attractive accessory. But while coping with them, you can experience as little discomfort as possible by using these easy but crucial home remedies. For more information, see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat on the main Home Remedies page.
Ezee Knowledge Bank is presented everyday at 10:15 and is sponsored by Q Care Pharmacy