In most cases, cold sores in the lips and face are manifested as a result of infection by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). However, the herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) can cause cold sores too.
Cold sores are skin eruptions caused due to infection by the herpes simplex virus, abbreviated as HSV. What is more disheartening is that these skin conditions affect the oral and facial parts. Thus, this viral infection is also referred to as orofacial herpes. Common sites of sore outbreaks are lips, tongue, areas near the mouth, throat, nose cheeks, eyes, central nervous system, etc. Not only do they look unpleasant, but cold sores are very painful and persist for 1 – 2 weeks.
Types of Cold Sores
Despite the name, this viral infection is not related to the typical cold symptoms. Also, do not confuse it with canker sore, which is a totally different, bacterial infection. The cold sores progress to fluid-filled blisters within a few days of eruption, hence are colloquially known as fever blisters. Frankly speaking, there is not much to talk about cold sores types. They can be caused due to infections by both strains of herpes simplex virus – HSV type 1 and HSV type 2.
Cold Sores Caused by HSV-1
The herpes simplex virus strain 1 is responsible for maximum cases of cold sores. Areas for sore eruptions are marked by tingling sensation, and within 1 – 2 days, sores appear in these particular regions. The sores burst open within the next few days, ooze clear fluid and then crust over. Thus, complete healing takes about 1 week, or as long as 14 days in some patients. This HSV-1 is virulent for causing genital sores.
Cold Sores Caused by HSV-2
In rare instances, cold sores are a result of infection by the herpes simplex virus type 2. Otherwise, this herpes strain results in anogenital sores, i.e. sores in the genital areas. Except for the pathological perspective, these cold sores are similar to those caused by HSV-1, and they require the same duration for healing. In short, both the herpes strains are capable of causing oral and genital herpes.
Once infected, herpes becomes a chronic or life-long condition. The sore outbreaks will be manifested when the HSV multiplies and causes infections. Recurrent episodes are common in people, who have been subjected to prolonged stress, or are suffering from some underlying health problems. Another concerning issue is, the causal virus is present in blisters. It spreads easily from an infected person to healthy individuals upon direct contact with the fluids and sores.
The transmission rate of HSV-1 via simply touching, kissing and sharing personal belongings is very high. Self-care guidelines for getting rid of cold sores are effective, only if one identifies the warning signs of sore eruption and follows them at the earliest date. Otherwise, already erupted sores will take their own course of healing, which usually lasts for 1 week to 2 weeks. Thus, acting as soon as the first signs of infections (tingling, numbness) appear is the trick for treating the sores quickly.
How to Get Rid of Cold Sores?
In nearly all cases, cold sores are self-limiting and disappear on their own. Treatment is adopted to combat symptoms and promote healing. The typical therapeutic intervention for cold sores is administration of antiviral medications, both topical and oral drugs. Keeping oneself healthy and stress-free can help avoid severe cold sores. Since dehydration worsens herpes infection, drinking ample water and avoiding dehydration are imperative. Let’s see about the tips for getting rid of cold sores fast.
- Apply ice compresses over the tingling area to prevent severe sore outbreaks. This ice treatment renders the virus inactive for replication, thus reducing symptoms of serious infections.
- Using petroleum jelly and simple lubricating formulations prevent drying of the sores, which otherwise result in severe pain. Keep the area clean by washing with a mild antimicrobial soap.
- While going out, cover the sores and avoid exposing them to harsh sun. Home remedies are aloe vera gel, garlic oil, oregano oil, alum and toothpaste.
- Acidic foods are shown to aggravate symptoms of this viral disease. So, identify foods to avoid with cold sores and eliminate them from the daily diet to ensure quick healing of skin sores.
- Topical ointments sold over-the-counter (for example lidocaine) can be applied for easing pain symptoms. Also, skin formulations containing ethyl aminobenzoate are effectual to alleviate pain, irritation and trauma associated with fever blisters.
While topical treatments and short-term administration of oral tablets are effective to clear all types of cold sores, intermittent and suppressive therapies are indicated for repeated bouts. Till date, medical researches could not unravel a cure for herpes infection. So, treating and preventing sore eruptions are the only options left to us for tackling this viral infection.